McGee Avenue Baptist Church, Historic Black Church in California, Launches Affordable Housing Units With $1 Million Grant from City of Berkeley

The McGee Avenue Baptist Church (L) and the fenced property at 1638 Stuart St. in Berkeley, Calif., that’s set to be restored. | Screenshot: YouTube

A 101-year-old church with a history of activism and a dedication to people in need will now be able to extend affordable housing to its community in Berkeley, California, thanks to a $1 million grant from the city.

The McGee Avenue Baptist Church, has had some eight housing units languishing vacant since the early 1990s, according to Berkleyside, in a city where the average rent is $3,240.

Tenants previously lived in the property purchased by the church in the 1970s, but the congregation ended their leases with a plan to expand the church in the 1990s. Around the same time the congregation made that decision, however, the predominantly progressive black church started having financial struggles as congregants left for the suburbs.

Now with the help of the Bay Area Community Land Trust they’ll be providing housing for low-income tenants again through a creative partnership. The land trust which normally purchases small buildings and converts them into permanently affordable residential properties is allowing the church to keep ownership of the property but will help them restore and manage it.

“I’m dancing inside with joy,” said Derrin Jourdan, a church board chair and longtime member who thought the church would never be able to redevelop the property.

“It wasn’t just that it was difficult. I thought it was impossible,” Jourdan said, noting that the church had been trying to make the property viable again for years.

The loan for the church’s project was funded through Measure U1, which is a 30-year loan program for nonprofits that wants to buy or rehab buildings and turn them into affordable housing.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair