Faith-based, specifically African-American church-based affordable housing development in Oakland, “requires a holistic approach,” says The Reverend Dr. Kenneth Anderson, Senior Pastor of Williams Chapel Baptist Church, currently building 88 apartments and a community center at 10th Avenue and International Boulevard in Central East Oakland.
Mentored and inspired by Pastor Emeritus J. Alfred Smith, Sr., Dr. Anderson quotes from “For the Facing of the Hour – A Call to Action,” by Dr. Smith who said, “I accepted my conviction that the city at large must be our turf.”
Dr. Anderson accepts the same commitment and said, “My biggest desire – is building the community center component of the project as a gathering place for the neighboring community.”
So, how do faith-based organizations finance affordable housing in changing political times, especially when there is rampant gentrification?
Veteran housing development attorney and Allen Temple Deacon John Harrison, says, “There are two categories of development – housing built in the 1970s that needs rehab, and new projects being built for increasing needs in the community.”
However, there have been changes in federal law and the disappearance of California Redevelopment Agency funding initiated by Governor Jerry Brown, makes financing a more complicated puzzle to assemble.
The Federal Government’s HUD funding was the core source of money decades ago. With the disappearance of Section 202 funds (senior housing) and Section 811 (disabled housing) funds at the federal level, the available financing is now called LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credits).
Dr. Anderson says the total cost of his project is $52 million. The LITHC program will provide $35 million dollars and Dr. Anderson will fill the gap in financing needs from a combination of local funding sources.
Those local sources include funds from Alameda County Measure A1, Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Program, Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program, the City of Oakland Measure KK, and the “deferred developer fee.”
A two-year planning effort that started April 16, 2015, brings Williams Chapel to the point of applying for funding this year.“Our church made a commitment to build affordable, lowincome senior housing as a first step,” said Dr. Anderson.
“Then we put our ‘dream team’ of builders and architects together before we approached Beacon Communities to be our developer. I wanted a diverse team consisting of MWA Architects and Nibbi Brothers/Baines Group as our general contractor,” said Dr. Anderson.
Dr. Anderson said Beacon Communities will guide the funding application process. Federal LIHTC applications are opened twice a year and Williams Chapel is targeting the March application window for their project.
Property ownership or acquisition is also a major piece of the complicated development puzzle.Attorney John Harrison states that the simplest and most desirable situation is that a church already owns the property to be developed, which is the case for Williams Chapel.
He added that the rehabilitation for older development projects is more difficult because ownership must be transferred to a limited partnership to attract financing, and “regaining ownership can be difficult.”
Dr. Anderson’s advice to other churches and non-profit organizations is to not rush in to try to do things in a hurry. He advises any potential faith-based developer to remember that ownership of the land is vital and the ability to arrange for mutual assistance from government agencies is also key to successful developments.
Dr. Anderson credits his success so far to the relationships he has established with city and county officials.