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Have You Heard? Affordable Housing on Faith Lands: Do Good and Do Well

Rev. Molly Baskette

Did you know that an exciting piece of legislation has just passed the California state legislature that would both fast-track lots of new affordable housing projects WHILE earning revenue for our churches? It’s headed for Governor Newsom’s desk next and needs your support to become law!

SB4, the Affordable Housing on Faith Lands Act, will allow faith communities and nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their land by-right: without submitting to the arduous and often expensive process to get local approval.

Building affordable housing on our church campuses–on parking lots, repurposing or replacing unused or underutilized buildings–is an elegant solution to the moral and spiritual crises of rampant homelessness and housing insecurity. The UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation estimates that religious institutions in California own approximately 38,000 acres of land (the size of Stockton) that is potentially developable for housing.

My church, First Church Berkeley UCC, entered into the conversation about affordable housing when our church burned down nearly 7 years ago. How would we rebuild on this extraordinary piece of real estate that we were stewards of? Could we possible include housing for the most vulnerable of our neighbors?

It took many years, some painful moments, and a commitment to stay in the conversation to get to an affirming vote on building housing, but we got there (with 93% voting yes!). We have secured a developer, EBALDC, and architects, Yes Duffy/David Baker Architects. With more funding coming online because of the major shifts that have happened in the past few years in public opinion and public policy around affordable housing, we are looking at a much shorter timeline to actually get the project underway than we were even a couple of years ago! And one of the blessings of making our land available for housing will be a development fee (ground lease or flat-out lump sum) given to the church by the affordable housing developer, that will sustain our own ministries for many years to come.

Is your church ready to think about taking this step? First: send a “request for signature” to the Governor’s office by emailing and cc: Tate Hanna, Sen. Wiener Policy Analyst ( and Abram Diaz, NPH Policy Director (, stating your support for SB4. You can read the SB4 talking points here and add them to your email.

You may also post on X/Twitter encouraging his signature on the bill tagging him using these profiles: @CAgovernor @GavinNewsom.

To begin to find out more about how to develop affordable housing on your land, call affordable housing professional and UCC minister Rev. Sophia DeWitt (, 510-663-3830 ext. 313), who works for East Bay Housing Organizations.

Be part of the new zeitgeist to do good and do well: making your church space a literal home and haven for many.

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