How can parishes in the Diocese of Toronto use their lands for creating affordable housing and building community?
In 2019, Synod adopted a motion to develop an affordable housing plan for the diocese, to “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; and to establish specific achievable targets (e.g. 250 units by 2024).”
The diocesan Property Working Group is working towards presenting an affordable housing plan to Synod in November of this year. While the group determined that setting a target for a specific number of housing units by a certain date, without consideration of the needs of the local neighbourhood and worshipping community, was rather arbitrary at this stage, it is developing a framework for property development in the diocese while encouraging parishes to assess their own situation and, where appropriate, to consider alternate uses of their property, including affordable housing.
To that end, the working group, together with diocesan staff and the Rev. Dr. Jason McKinney, is offering a series of online meetings to educate parishes and encourage them to explore potential redevelopment options. The first event, “Common Ground and the Common Good: Church Redevelopment in the Diocese of Toronto,” will be held on the morning of Saturday, June 12. This online workshop will include an exploration of the theology of land use and examples of recent successful housing developments on church land. There will also be discussion of what assistance the diocese could offer parishes through the redevelopment process. This event is designed especially for clergy and lay leaders of parishes who are considering redevelopment, but also welcomes anyone in the diocese with an interest in creating affordable housing.
The June event will be followed up by a series of summer seminars that will take interested parish leaders deeper into specific aspects of the redevelopment process, such as getting a congregation on board, seeking out partnerships for construction and operation of housing units, securing funding, and more. Finally, another event is planned for September for parishes planning to take the next steps in pursuing redevelopment.