Church Housing Movement Takes Hold in Virginia

A Richmond-based congregation plans to build over 200 units on its property, and a proposed state law could lead to more projects like it.

1 minute read

January 31, 2024, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of church and houses in Richmond, Virginia.

Church and housing in Richmond, Virginia. | Felix Mizioznikov / Adobe Stock

A Virginia congregation plans to build 240 housing units on property it owns, part of a growing movement by faith-based organizations to contribute to solving the housing crisis sometimes known as ‘Yes in God’s Back Yard’ or YIGBY, a play on the more common ‘Not in My Back Yard’ acronym. “With many U.S. congregations shrinking and aging, houses of worship are reactivating their property for the public good.”

Writing in Next City, Barry Greene, Jr. describes the Richmond project, led by Village of Faith Ministries. “The church is working to convert its Southside location — a 1.5-acre property in nearby Midlothian that includes a retail strip plus the church, itself converted from a former movie theater — into 192 apartments and 40 townhomes.” The development will be close to a grocery store, banks, and other local businesses.

The Virginia State Senate is hearing a bill that would follow in the footsteps of California legislation to reduce zoning and regulatory barriers to building housing on church land, which could open the door to more similar projects in Virginia.

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