The United Church of Canada will turn churches into rental housing

If all goes according to plan over the next 15 years, up to 34,000 people could be housed in United Church of Canada church properties across the country through its redevelopment into mixed-use buildings with rental housing and new spaces. replacement congregation.

The church will leverage its national portfolio of properties in both larger urban areas and smaller communities, according to the announcement made in a news release earlier this week.

To implement the strategy, Kindred Works, a new development company, will be responsible for carrying out the renovations. He is both the development and asset manager of the United Property Resource Corporation, which was founded two years ago by the United Church of Canada.

All residential units will be rentals, with 33% of units available for rent at below-market prices for lower incomes. Proceeds from the for-profit market rental housing component will provide a “strong financial foundation” for the church enterprise, while also funding the renovation and replacement of outdated church and community meeting spaces and aged.

Buildings will have a high degree of low-carbon design, project costs will be spent locally to provide communities with derived economic benefits, and there will be “neighborhood stakeholder collaboration” for each project to ensure living spaces meeting are part of the developments.

At the same time, Kindred Works is adopting a portfolio approach that considers multiple projects simultaneously, potentially giving the company more financing opportunities and streamlining design and construction to reduce costs. Funding from the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation will be sought to help cover the cost of below-market rental housing.

Currently, the company already has eight projects in active predevelopment, a combined total of 600 homes. This includes the Toronto locations of St. Luke’s United Church, Church of the Master United Church, Wexford Heights United Church, and Wilmar Heights United Church, as well as Queenswood United Church in Ottawa, Regent Park United Church in Orillia, Westminster United Church in Saint Catherine, and Portland United Church in Saint John, New Brunswick.

According to its website, the United Church is the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, ministering to more than two million people in some 3,000 congregations.

But the concept isn’t entirely new, especially in Canada’s most expensive real estate market, where churches are leveraging their valuable properties to partner with developers and create a new source of revenue.

For years in Vancouver, a number of churches have been rebuilding their properties with a market housing component to provide not only the congregational benefit of renovating and replacing aging church spaces, but also the broader community benefit of affordable housing. additional rental. After a decades-long downward trend in membership, churches must turn to new sources of income to maintain their properties.

One of the first and largest projects was the 2018 completion of Downtown Vancouver’s Central Presbyterian Church in a 22-story tower with new replacement church space at the base of the building, plus 168 rental housing units. market and 45 non-commercial housing units. rental housing above.

As another unique example, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver has been considering adding an 18-story office tower to its 1900-built Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. This would provide the revenue needed to fund much-needed rehabilitation work on the historic church and seismic upgrades.

Holy Rosary Cathedral Vancouver

Outdated 2017 concept for the office tower addition to Holy Rosary Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. (Oberto Oberti Architecture)

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