Lydia DePillis of the City Paper writes about a new source for affordable housing in the District– churches. DePillis visited one house of worship, the Temple of Praise, an interdenominational megachurch that Mayor-for-life Marion Barry attends; the Temple has big plans for Ward 8. The church is so popular, it has outgrown the huge building it built just eight years ago; now it wants to construct something larger and transform the current Temple into a charter school. Beyond that, the ambitious church wants to develop affordable housing on its property.
And Bishop Glen Staples isn’t stopping there. He’s working on building a medical clinic, and wants to construct senior housing and a new community center, as well as a credit union, local retail, and restaurants—which neither the market nor the government have brought to that part of Ward 8 (even the local McDonald’s is vacant).
“There’s nothing here,” says Staples, taking a break in his dark wood and leather-trimmed inner sanctum, while the noon service thunders outside. “I don’t know if politicians are able to do anything, if they want to do anything, I don’t know, but I do know nothing’s been done. So it’s incumbent on us to try to do something.”
“Re-knitting an urban fabric” might be just what this city needs:
The particularly important thing here: These are the kinds of building projects many neighborhoods either grumble about or reject altogether. A church’s willingness to put them in its own neighborhood demonstrates a confidence in its ability to be a positive and stabilizing influence, re-knitting an urban fabric shredded by drugs and crime, in places where private capital would never voluntarily go.