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Joined by Mayor Andre Dickens outside Atlanta First United Methodist Church, Enterprise Community Partners earlier this week announced $8.5 million in grants from the Wells Fargo Foundation to help houses of worship across the U.S. convert underutilized land into affordable homes and community facilities.
Faith-based organizations collectively own tens of thousands of acres of underutilized and vacant land across the U.S., often in high-cost real estate markets where community members struggle to find affordable, quality housing, according to the announcement. The funding from Wells Fargo will support the nationwide expansion of Enterprise’s Faith-Based Development Initiative, which will partner with houses of worship to create roughly 6,000 affordable homes, including 1,000 in Atlanta.
“Communities of faith were central to Enterprise’s founding 40 years ago, and they continue to serve as strong cornerstones in creating neighborhoods where people and families can thrive,” Jacqueline Waggoner, president, Solutions Division, Enterprise, said. “There is so much potential in building partnerships with faith-based organizations and through this collaboration with Wells Fargo we can cascade much-needed resources and mentorship to help faith-based organizations create affordable homes.”
Nationwide, 10.5 million families pay more than half their income in rent each month, and housing development currently cannot keep pace with the growing need for affordable homes, according to the announcement.
“Far too many people across the country are facing housing instability and we’re grateful to be a part of this movement that is paving a new avenue for the construction of more quality affordable homes that will make a real difference in opening up economic opportunity for people in Atlanta and across the nation,” Eileen Fitzgerald, Wells Fargo’s head of housing affordability philanthropy, said. “As community anchors, houses of worship are at the center of so many lives, and working together, we can bring a whole new level of innovation to the housing supply challenge.”
In Fulton County alone, faith-based organizations own more than 6,000 acres of land, much of which is underutilized, according to the announcement. With Wells Fargo’s support, Enterprise will help approximately 15 houses of worship in the Atlanta metro create 1,000 affordable homes for community members over the next five years.
Enterprise’s Faith-Based Development Initiative launched in 2006 in the Mid-Atlantic region, where it has helped faith-based organizations to create or preserve more than 1,500 affordable homes and one community-based health clinic, with more than a thousand additional affordable homes in the development pipeline.
“To meet my Administration’s ambitious goal of creating or preserving 20,000 units of affordable housing, we will need the assistance of all facets of our community using all tools at our disposal,” Mayor Andre Dickens said. “By partnering with houses of worship to develop underutilized land owned by faith-based groups to develop affordable housing, we have the opportunity to get at least 1,000 units closer to our goal. Thank you to Wells Fargo and Enterprise Community Partners for their investment in housing equity in Atlanta.”
Faith-based organizations participating in the program will gain access to funding, training, technical assistance and tools, access to experts, and peer-to-peer learning.