Innovative Response to Accelerating Housing Crisis

by Lisa DeRosa

by Tom Sine

There is an urgent need for Christian leaders, in this Pandemic driven decade, to learn how to anticipate and creatively respond to a range of new challenges in a time of accelerating change!

In 2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change, Dwight Friesen and I outline how Christian leaders can learn from both environmental planners and business innovators:

  1. To anticipate incoming waves of change in their own communities;
  2. So you have lead time to create innovative new responses.

Anticipating an Enormous Housing Crisis

Mass unemployment over the coronavirus could lead to a 45% jump in homelessness” says the Los Angeles Times. “The Covid-19 Crisis and the current recession loom large….setting the stage for potentially record numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness.”

Church Responses to the Escalating Housing Crisis

Church leaders have for decades responded to the usual housing crisis by paying a months worth of rent for a family in need or a week long stay in a motel while they are seeking to get settled in a new community. This occasional charity can often help a family through a rough patch.

However, I suspect most church leaders are not aware that the COVID-19 Crisis is creating a huge housing crisis in the US. As a consequence they also don’t realize that a little token charity to many in need will no longer make a difference.

Creating Innovative Housing Responses for a New Housing Crisis

Jodi Koeman is a remarkably creative leader in empowering congregations in the Christian Reformed Church to shift from the charity model to creating innovative responses to these rapidly changing times. She described a church that has drastically shifted from the charity to a new empowerment model.

Jodi just sent me an example of Highland Park Christian Reformed Church in New Jersey that recently chose to move from charity to empowerment. They created Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation in 2008. This non-profit corporation has decisively shifted from offering a little charity to those facing a housing crisis to reasonably priced housing. Here is a description from their website of what housing for empowerment can look like.

Housing For Social Empowerment

“RCHP-AHC owns 20 properties in seven different municipalities in central NJ that house diverse low-income tenants, including veterans, women aging out of foster care, developmentally disabled adults, homeless youth, chronically homeless individuals, and others with significant life challenges. We also rent an additional 30 units and serve as a temporary intermediary for families – including refugees and asylum seekers – who would otherwise be unable to secure an apartment rental due to poor (or no) credit history, temporary unemployment, or other factors.

Mission Statement:

The Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation (RCHP-AHC) provides affordable housing, supportive services, and connection to meaningful community to low-income individuals and families in central New Jersey.

Recently the Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corp. (RCHP-AHC) held a ribbon cutting to celebrate new homes for very low-income families in the borough, according to a news release.

The two new properties consist of two two-family homes, three three-bedroom homes and one two-bedroom home. They are the result of a collaboration between the state, county and RCHP-AHC, the release said.

The first tenant for one of the units was in attendance and said that she felt overwhelmed with emotion by the support and encouragement of RCHP-AHC staff as she applied for the house with her four children, the release said. After many months in a hotel, she and her children are ready to settle into the borough, where the mayor and superintendent of schools.”

Anticipating and Innovating

Clearly not all churches can afford to create a non-profit corporation to provide reasonably priced housing for the exploding number of homeless. However, in a time of accelerating change, every Christian leader can learn how to anticipate new waves of change, in the turbulent 2020s, and then join those that are creating new ways to make a real difference that reflect the way of Jesus.

2020s Foresight: Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change is available on Amazon for pre-order.

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