This is an update on an affordable housing plan for the diocese. It was received by Diocesan Council at its December 2020 meeting.
At the diocese’s Synod in November 2019, the following motion was passed:
“That this Synod request Diocesan Council (or its successor) to respond to the affordable housing crisis across the diocese by developing an affordable housing plan. This plan will: determine the feasibility of building affordable housing on diocesan owned lands; prioritize strategic partnerships with industry experts in the fields of planning, development, and affordable housing provision; establish specific achievable targets (e.g. 250 units by 2024).”
A requirement of the Synod motion was to report back to Synod and the diocese by November of 2020.
A Property Working Group consisting of Sandra Marki (chair), Bob Baird, the Rev. Keith Joyce, George Lewis, ODT, Heather McGregor, ODT, the Rev. Jesse Parker, the Rev. Stephen Shaw, Rob Saffrey and Livia Assuncao has been working to draft a framework for approaching church redevelopment projects. Work on this motion has been delayed by the state of emergency related to COVID-19. However, the Property Working Group is working towards presenting an affordable housing plan to Synod in November of 2021.
The establishment of an achievable target that includes dates is difficult for the following reasons:
- Although the diocese owns lands, they are not vacant pieces of land. Church properties come with worshipping communities. Designating church properties as being available for housing developments without consideration of local communities would not likely be a successful strategy. Instead, what will more likely be successful is an approach that encourages parishes to assess their own situation and, where appropriate, look to maximize the value of their ministry assets by considering alternate uses of their property.
- The needs of each community and allowable uses of property will vary – housing will not always be the most appropriate use.
- The discernment process for each parish and the time to bring a development plan to completion is significant. This makes a target date for providing a set number of housing units difficult and somewhat arbitrary.
At its meeting of Dec. 14, 2020, the Property Working Group decided that the first step in responding to the Synod motion was to establish a solid theological underpinning. With the assistance of the Rev. Dr. Jason McKinney and Heather McGregor, ODT, the working group will, at its next meeting, look to establish this underpinning.
A tentative work plan for the group includes:
- Establishment of theological values to underly a housing policy.
- Review the framework for existing projects (Epiphany and St. Mark, All Saints Church- Community Centre, St. Mary and St. Martha, St. George by the Grange) to assess and make changes.
- Develop material for group meetings to educate and encourage parishes of the options available for their properties.
- Review previous work done cataloging properties in the diocese and identify properties that are most suited to development.
- Propose a framework for property development in the diocese.