Fairfax City Church Joins Movement to Build Housing on their Land

 

The movement to build housing that is affordable on land owned by faith communities has reached the City of Fairfax. As rising rents and a shrinking supply of affordable stock increase the risk of housing instability for low and moderate income households, advocates have been exploring ways to create more homes in communities with limited land options. At the same time, some congregations have experienced declining membership, resulting in more space than is needed for their worship services. As a result, an increasing number of mission-driven faith communities are exploring partnerships with affordable housing developers to build homes on church land.

During the planning of their 2020 Capital Campaign, Fairfax Presbyterian Church decided to take their commitment to address unmet housing needs in the City of Fairfax a step further. Through a partnership with three non-profit organizations – Habitat for Humanity Northern Virginia, Homestretch, and HomeAid Northern Virginia –  a proposal has been developed for 10 townhomes to be built on church property. Two of the townhomes will be managed by Homestretch and will serve as transitional housing for families coming out of homelessness, and the remaining eight will be for first-time homebuyers.

On Saturday, January 25, the church’s Housing Implementation Team and their non-profit partners shared details of the project at a community meeting. The event was an opportunity for the church to present the project and for the partners to talk about their roles. Reverend Jon Smoot of Habitat explained the mission of Habitat and how they will serve develop the eight remaining homes and select the prospective homeowners. Ken Bradford of Homestretch shared how the transitional housing will serve families working through Homestretch’s program. Lastly, Kristyn Burr of HomeAid explained their role developing strong relationships with industry professionals who contribute their expertise and materials to make these homes more affordable.

The presentation included mock-ups of the project proposal, allowing participants to view them and ask questions. While there was no facilitated Q and A session, constituents shared their concerns and observations. A few residents commented that there is no need for affordable housing in the city, demonstrating that greater awareness and education about the need for, and benefits of affordable housing remain.

The next step in the process is the submission of the development application to the City which will include a request to rezone the property. That will most likely take place in February, with public hearings in July.

We applaud Fairfax Presbyterian Church as well as Homestretch, Habitat, and HomeAid for embarking on this mission-driven journey. It’s encouraging to see this faith community partnership with affordable housing providers spread beyond Arlington and Alexandria which were the first jurisdictions in Northern Virginia to adopt this practice.

Molly Jacobson, Communications and Policy Associate