Houses of worship may answer prayers for affordable housing
BY JOANNE TURNER
Enterprise Community Partners, Bank of America and Prince George’s County are partnering with faith-based organizations to fund affordable housing units in the county. The $525,000 program will help up to seven houses of worship develop housing on their vacant land. This venture is county-wide and is open to mosques, temples and churches, and to all their religious leaders, whether imams, rabbis or pastors.
The last day for houses of worship to submit applications was May 5, according to the Rev. Joseph K. Williams Sr., senior program director and manager of Enterprise’s Faith-based Development Initiative. Williams said he will rate the applications and help determine which seven county-based houses of worship will participate in the initiative.
Williams said he is looking for houses of worship that meet three criteria: 1) They must prove that they own the land and, thus, have site control of the property; 2) They have to be willing to commit to the program and send representatives to training sessions and technical assistance meetings; and 3) They must have experience with community development and demonstrate that they can meet the organizational requirements of the initiative.
Lisa McDougal, president of Sowing Empowerment and Economic Development, or SEED, said that the selected houses of worship will be notified by May 26 and begin training sessions soon thereafter. SEED is a nonprofit based in Prince George’s County and in Wayne County, Mich., that is helping with the project. According to its website, SEED provides “food, education, and training while promoting self-sufficiency and empowerment directly to low-to-moderate-income families.”
One of the county-based churches applying for this venture is Riverdale’s Refreshing Springs Church of God in Christ, which helped found SEED as an outreach organization back in 1997 and has housed SEED’s daily operations in the Refreshing Springs Professional Building, at 6201 Riverdale Road, since 2004.
Bishop James E. Jordan Jr., pastor of Refreshing Springs, said he and his congregation applied for the program because they want to be of service to the community. He quoted the beginning of Psalms 127:1 when he noted, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”
“We just don’t want the land to sit there vacant when it can help to enhance the community and serve people that need affordable housing,” said Jordan, adding that Refreshing Springs, through its community development corporation, has hosted a first-time homeowners program for years.
Enterprise — a national nonprofit whose stated goals include increasing the supply of affordable homes, advancing racial equity following decades of systematic racism in housing, and supporting residents and communities to make upward mobility possible — has created 951,000 across the country since its founding in 1982, according to its website. Through its Faith-Based Development Initiative, Enterprise has provided over $2.2 million in grant funding to houses of worship to begin the community development process, according to Williams.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser promoted Enterprise’s Faith-based Development Initiative to District-based houses of worship on her website in December 2020.
“Every day, houses of worship across D.C. step up to support our community in a number of ways. We know that there are faith-based partners out there who see the need for safe and affordable housing, and they want to help,” she wrote. “We’re simplifying the process and making it easier for faith partners to get the guidance and resources they need to build housing in D.C.”
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has been just as welcoming of Enterprise’s Faith-based Development Initiative. “We are excited that the FBDI is coming to Prince George’s County,” she said, according to a March 29 Enterprise press release. “This new initiative will allow our faith-based community to help us further our efforts to expand affordable housing for our residents.”