Faith-Based Housing Brings Light Density With Less Resistance

The ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ movement brings together powerful partners to develop housing in areas where development might otherwise encounter opposition.

1 minute read

May 2, 2024, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of Riverside, California with ornate Catholic church tower in foreground and mountains in the distance.

Church in Riverside, California. | Steve / Adobe Stock

Writing in The New York Times, Conor Dougherty describes the growth of the ‘Yes in God’s Backyard’ (YIGBY) movement that is making a small but significant impact on the housing and homelessness crisis in California and elsewhere.

As Dougherty explains, building housing on vacant or underused land can benefit the organizations that own it, too. “In Los Angeles and around the country, faith organizations are often on prime urban land that sits smack in the middle of residential neighborhoods or along major corridors.” Now, “By redeveloping their property into affordable housing, congregations hope to create a stream of rental revenue that can replace declining income and lower membership numbers.”

The passage of SB 4 last year, a bill that allows faith-based organizations to build up to 30 units of affordable housing per acre, made these projects possible in California. “In effect, the bill rezoned a large swath of the state’s low-slung landscape by forcing cities to allow apartment development near single-family homes.”

The YIGBY movement is catching on in other places, with governments in Atlanta, San Antonio, Montgomery County, Maryland, and the state of New York passing or considering similar legislation.

Saturday, April 27, 2024 in The New York Times

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