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Places of worship to turn their unused spaces into housing

February 23, 2022 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — A nonprofit is announcing a new initiative to help churches, synagogues and other places of worship turn their unused space into affordable housing.

The effort was launched Wednesday at Atlanta First United Methodist Church, where Enterprise Community Partners announced $8.5 million in grants from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

The money is aimed at converting underutilized land into affordable homes and community facilities.

Nationwide, faith-based organizations own tens of thousands of acres of underutilized and vacant land, organizers 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,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, Wells Fargo’s head of housing affordability philanthropy.

The funding from Wells Fargo will help expand Enterprise’s Faith-Based Development Initiative, which will partner with houses of worship to create about 6,000 affordable homes — including about 1,000 in Atlanta — the company said in a Wednesday news release.

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“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,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said.

Enterprise’s Faith-Based Development Initiative began in 2006 in the Mid-Atlantic region, and it is seen as a model for the effort announced on Wednesday.