BC’s faith communities can play big role in confronting housing crisis – on their own land

The New Jubilee: 126 units

The New Jubilee: 162 units

On one side of me at last night’s Regent Exchange forum on churches and the housing crisis was a Victoria Anglican cathedral parishioner deeply affected by that city’s growing tent city at the provincial court house across from his church.

On the other, a member of the More Than A Roof society that provides housing and outreach services in Vancouver’s Downtown South. And in the rest of the room, more than 250 people anxious to help fight the housing crisis.

There was lots of good news. Joan Seidl, of 127 Society for Housing, related how critical Anglican community support was to winning the battle to create the New Jubilee in partnership with the Brenhill project in Vancouver over objections from neighbours. What was an 87-unit worn-out building will be a new building with 162 units.

Tom Dickout, of Grandview Calvary Baptist, talked about his church’s goal of converting a parking lot to 26 housing units at 1st and Victoria. This Co-HERE project will offer a mix of housing and provide new homes for homeless people in the community. Fundraising is nearly complete.

Others on the way: a new Lutheran housing project at Oakridge, a Presbyterian social housing complex and new church on Thurlow near Robson — it all adds up to several hundred units, all built on church land.

The Vision council has approved three out of four of these projects — the Lutheran proposal is still in review. They show the potential. The city’s Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency has been created specifically to help projects like these get off the ground. It’s unique in the region.

It was the mobilization of church land in each of these projects that was the focus of the third presentation by Robert Brown of Catalyst Community Development. Once a faith community is clear on its mission, he said, it can make a great contribution to solving the housing crisis, he said, and strengthen both its spiritual and financial strength at the same time.

For its part, Brown added, the City of Vancouver has “shown great leadership and taken exactly the right approach.”