Using Faith-Based Land for Affordable Housing

Zoning Practice — July 2023

By Donald Elliott, FAICP, Marguerite Squyer


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While communities across the country are struggling to provide affordable housing options for their most vulnerable citizens, a new set of sometimes-overlooked development partners is rising to the challenge: religious institutions. Many of these institutions own vacant buildings and underutilized land in established neighborhoods.

Projects to repurpose unneeded land surrounding a religious worship structure often involves a still-active (though possibly struggling) congregation interested in both addressing the affordability challenge and preserving or improving the future of that worshiping community. Since the "excess" land that may be made available for housing is often currently used as a parking lot, they also frequently involve questions of zoning regulations requiring minimum amounts of parking.

This issue of Zoning Practice explores the growing trend of developing transitional and permanent affordable housing on underused faith-based land. It examines the relationship between land supply and the housing crisis, the reasons why religious institutions are increasingly interested in development partnerships, and the zoning standards that can limit development opportunities. And it highlights several successful efforts to bring new affordable housing to faith-based lands.


Page Count
Date Published
July 1, 2023
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American Planning Association

About the Authors

Donald Elliott, FAICP

Marguerite Squyer