What Would Jesus Do? Tackle the Housing Crisis, Say Some Congregations.

The “Yes in God’s Backyard” movement to build affordable housing on faith organizations’ properties is gaining steam in California and elsewhere.

Walking past empty pews and stained-glass windows, the Rev. Victor Cyrus-Franklin, pastor of Inglewood First United Methodist Church in Inglewood, Calif., talked about how housing prices were threatening his flock.

Congregants were being priced out of the neighborhood, he said. Many of those who remained were too burdened by rent to give to the church.

As Mr. Cyrus-Franklin spoke, a 78-year-old man named Bill Dorsey was a few yards away in an outdoor corridor that led to the chapel, amid tarps and piles of clothes. Mr. Dorsey’s makeshift residence, which the church tolerates, is one of several homeless encampments that sit in and around Inglewood First’s property, which is in a neighborhood of modest homes and small apartment buildings near Los Angeles International Airport.

“We know their stories and we know how hard it is to find housing,” Mr. Cyrus-Franklin said.

So the church is trying to help — by building housing.

Early next year, Inglewood First United Methodist is scheduled to begin construction on 60 studio apartments that will replace three empty buildings behind its chapel that, until a few years ago, were occupied by a school.

Half of the units will be reserved for older adults. All of them will have rents below the market rate.

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