On June 4th, 2023, our congregation voted almost unanimously to build, in bricks and mortar, our values as a faith community. Our Building Beloved Community Committee is tasked with helping us develop affordable housing on our campus as part of our commitment to moving from repentance to reparation for the institutional racism embodied in Montgomery County zoning laws.
Learn more about the project, our progress, and ways you can get involved below!
Building Beloved Community Committee Update: October 25, 2023
Building Beloved Community Committee Update: November 16, 2023
Affordable Housing Discernment
Overall, the visioning committee hosted 11 different roundtable sessions. Here are a few themes that we heard across the sessions:
Things people are excited about with the project
- The role of affordable housing in social and racial justice in our community, the way it can be a part of our vision for our church and our community.
- Providing a housing option for families and for the workforce (such as teachers, firefighters, etc.) so they can live in the community where they work (Silver Spring). Several folks expressed interest in housing seniors as well.
- Housing that also has some community spaces, such as a playground and/or sitting area
- Eager and hopeful that there’s a good relationship between the church and the folks who moving into the housing.
- Ensuring housing is accessible (and that any changes to our church are accessible).
- Supporting other churches in walking this path with our examples.
Things people want to make sure we protect during the project:
- The sanctuary and chapel
- Plenty of space for children’s, youth, and adult ministries – space to meet needs now and space to grow back to pre-pandemic attendance and beyond
- Some folks expressed interest in keeping the gym and/or the playground
- Parking for us and for the folks living in the new housing structure
- Protect our own finances – making sure we are not at risk and that the new housing actually provides SSUMC the funding necessary to continue and expand our mission here in Silver Spring; the housing development should be seen as a long-term asset and revenue stream for the church.
- Positive relationship with the neighborhood, making sure they are comfortable with the size of the structure, water management, trash, etc.
- Ensure church staff are not stretched too thin throughout this long process
- Area Median Income (AMI): Area median income is defined as the midpoint of a specific area’s income distribution and is calculated on an annual basis by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In Montgomery County, the AMI is currently $117,345 based upon the 2021 Census.
- Supportive Housing: Supportive housing combines non-time-limited affordable housing assistance with wrap-around supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, as well as persons with disabilities, those experiencing domestic abuse, and those leaving incarceration.
- Workforce Housing: refer to any form of housing, including ownership of single or multi-family homes, as well as occupation of rental units. Workforce housing is generally understood to mean affordable housing for households with earned income that is insufficient to secure quality housing in reasonable proximity to the workplace. In Montgomery County, workforce housing (both rental and purchase) is qualified as being for persons who do not qualify for Montgomery County’s Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) Program.
- Low Income: Designated by the Federal Government as any household earning less than 80% of AMI. In Montgomery County, this amount is $93,876 for a 4-person household.
- Very Low Income: Designated by the Federal Government as any household earning less than 50% of AMI. In Montgomery County, this amount is $58,672.50 for a 4-person household.
- Extremely Low Income: Designated by the Federal Government as any household earning less than 30% of AMI. In Montgomery County, this amount is $35,203.50 for a 4-person household.
- Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit: Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) are affordably priced homes – both new, resale, and rental – offered to first-time homebuyers who have a moderate level of household income.
- Low Income Housing Tax Credit: The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, or LIHTC, program is a federal government tax credit that, since 1986, has helped facilitate the construction and rehabilitation of 3.6 million affordable housing units throughout the U.S., according to housing advocacy organization NAHRO. Unlike tax deductions, which create a reduction in taxable income, tax credits provide a dollar-for-dollar reduction in an investor’s tax liability.LIHTCs help fund the new construction and rehabilitation of a variety of different property types, including traditional apartments, single-family homes, and two- to four-unit multifamily properties (think duplexes or triplexes). In addition, LIHTCs can fund the conversion of structures like schools, warehouses, and motels into multifamily properties. Properties using these credits must generally cap rents for some or all of the units at a certain percentage of a location’s AMI.The developer of a property utilizing LIHTCs can be either a for-profit or nonprofit group. This may surprise some people, since LIHTC investors do not have an active role in the development process of an affordable property, apart from investing funds. However, it’s usually easier for nonprofits to access LIHTCs. Each state is mandated to set aside 10% of its LIHTC funds for nonprofit developers, as this is likely to result in a greater amount of units with rents targeted at very low-income residents.Using LIHTCs has other benefits for nonprofits. At the end of the 15-year compliance period, nonprofits can generally exercise an option to buy the property in question. This gives the LIHTC investor/syndicator a ready buyer, while helping the nonprofit create a permanent source of affordable housing. Plus, as the developer of the property, the nonprofit will generally receive various fees (for example, developer fees and partnership management fees) that can help it pay its overhead expenses.
Does this mean that we will be selling some or all of the Church’s property?
- No. Development of this nature is accomplished through what is called a ‘ground lease.’ A ground lease is an agreement in which a tenant is permitted to develop a piece of property during the lease period, after which the land and all improvements are turned over to the property owner. This means that, at the end of the lease period, the building that we build and the management of the property will revert to the Church. The length of the ground lease is negotiated with the development partner that we select.
If the education wing and surrounding play spaces are demolished, where would we hold Sunday school and UMYF?
- There is space in our existing building to house all of these activities, some of which may be better located in more accessible and/or multi use areas of the building. We would also have the ability to renovate spaces that are currently less utilized to meet these needs.
What would happen to the community groups, such as Spring Knolls Cooperative Preschool and the Boy Scouts, who also use the space?
- Space in our existing building could be reallocated for these needs and/or spaces for these groups could be included as a part of any new structure as community use spaces. We have already spoken with them about the potential of this project and they are excited to join us on the journey of discernment as we move forward.
How much will it cost us now?
- There is no up-front cost to developing affordable housing on our property. In fact, we would actually receive an up-front payment before building even begins! The total amount of money received is determined by what we decide to build, and would be negotiated with the developer as we moved through the process of designing the building and identifying the ‘mix’ of housing we wanted to provide.
What is the process for deciding to develop affordable housing on our property? Is this already a done deal?
- Only our whole congregation, through a vote of our professing members, can make the decision to develop affordable housing on our property. The initial, free, feasibility study was initiated by our Trustees in June 2022, at the request of the Greater Washington District of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, to determine whether or not any such development would be possible. Our Vision Team, called together by Pastor Will and the Administrative Board, was tasked with receiving the feasibility study, gathering additional information, and determining whether or not it made sense to bring that study to the congregation.
There are multiple congregational votes, and opportunities for dialogue, discussion, and debate at every step of the development process, which is outlined in greater detail below.
How would this initiative connect to the current work being done on the church building and the necessary repairs?
- In the Spring of 2022, the Trustees undertook an engineering study to comprehensively understand repair and upgrade needs for our current infrastructure systems. The systems analyzed included our roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and life-safety systems. To day the rough orders of magnitude received for that project total somewhere between $11 and $13 million.
Because these systems are integrated into the fabric of all our space, making a determination about whether or not we want to develop affordable housing–and what the development looks like–is the first step in determining how to best upgrade and repair those systems. Once we’ve made a decision about whether or not we want to develop, we’ll be able to determine how to most efficiently and effectively begin renovations to our building.
How do the upfront costs relate to our current pledged giving?
- At this time there are no up-front costs for pursuing discernment or development of an affordable housing project on our property. Should development move forward, we anticipate that it would ultimately result in lower utility, cleaning, and maintenance costs, which currently represent about 43% of our annual $954,833 budget.
Our annual pledged giving for 2023 is currently $485,789 which is only about $75,000 more than what we currently spend to heat, cool, and care for our building.
Who would manage the rental property?
- The property would be managed by a nationally accredited affordable housing leasing agency, identified by our development partners, with the mix of housing options available determined by the congregation.
Building Beloved Community Committee Charter
The Building Beloved Community Committee (the “Committee”) of Silver Spring United Methodist Church (the “Church”) is formed, pursuant to Article V section II of the Bylaws of the Church to guide, on behalf of the Leadership Council, the work of Building Beloved Community and developing affordable housing (the “Project”) on our campus.
The Committee shall be nominated by the Leadership Council and approved by a simple majority vote of any duly called Charge Conference. The Committee will serve at the pleasure of the congregation, and may be disbanded at any time by a simple majority vote of any duly called Charge Conference.
The Committee shall be comprised of two co-chairs and 10 additional members. Attention shall be given to ensure that the diversity of age, race, sexuality, and ability present in our congregation are represented. The Lead Pastor and Leadership Council Vice-Chair shall serve as ex-officio members of the committee.
Pursuant to ❡2254, Sec. 5, the Committee is tasked to serve as a Building Committee responsible for establishing a plan and development agreement for developing affordable housing on our campus. The Committee shall:
- Use the information and findings of the Vision Team and any other relevant information to estimate carefully the building facilities needed, as the case may be, to house both affordable housing and the church’s program of worship, education, and fellowship;
- ascertain the cost of any property to be purchased; and
- develop preliminary architectural plans that:
- comply with local building, fire, and accessibility codes;
- clearly outline the location on the site of all proposed present and future construction; and
- provide adequate facilities for parking, entrance, seating, rest rooms, and accessibility for persons with disabilities, but providing for such adequate facilities shall not apply in the case of a minor remodeling project;
- secure an estimate of the cost of the proposed construction;
- develop a financial plan for defraying the total cost, including an estimate of the amount the membership can contribute in cash and pledges and the amount the local church can borrow if necessary.
- The building committee shall submit to the district board of church location and building for its consideration and preliminary approval:
- a statement of the need for the proposed facilities;
- the preliminary architectural plans, including accessibility plans;
- the preliminary cost estimate; and
- the preliminary financial plan.
- After preliminary approval by the district board of church location and building, the pastor, with the written consent of the district superintendent, shall call a church conference, giving not less than ten days’ notice (except as local laws may otherwise provide) of the meeting and the proposed action from the pulpit or in the weekly bulletin. At the church conference, the building committee shall present:
- the preliminary architectural plans;
- the preliminary cost estimate;
- the preliminary financial plan; and
- the building committee’s recommendation.
- A majority vote of the membership present and voting at the church conference shall be required to approve the preliminary architectural plans, cost estimate, and financial plan and the building committee’s recommendation.
- After approval by the church conference, the building committee shall develop detailed plans and specifications and secure a reliable and detailed estimate of cost, which shall be presented for approval to the charge conference and to the district board of church location and building.
- After approval by the charge conference and district board of church location and building, the building committee may begin the building project or remodeling project. Written documentation substantiating the approvals of the charge conference and the district board of church location and building shall be lodged with the district superintendent and the secretary of the charge conference.
- In metropolitan areas, the building committee shall ensure that adequate steps are taken to obtain the services of minority (nonwhite) and female skilled persons in the construction in proportion to the racial and ethnic balance in the area. In non-metropolitan areas, the building committee shall ensure that racial and ethnic persons are employed in the construction where available and in relation to the available workforce.
- The local church shall acquire a fee simple title to the lot or lots on which any building is to be erected. The deed or conveyance shall be executed as provided in this chapter. It is recommended that contracts on property purchased by a local church be contingent upon the securing of a guaranteed title, and the property’s meeting of basic environmental requirements of lending institutions and of local and state laws.
- If a loan is needed, the local church shall comply with the provisions of ¶ 2540 or ¶ 2541.
- The local church shall not enter into a building contract or, if using a plan for volunteer labor, incur obligations for materials until it has cash on hand, pledges payable during the construction period, and (if needed) a loan or written commitment therefore that will assure prompt payment of all contractual obligations and other accounts when due.
- Neither the trustees nor any other members of a local church shall be required to guarantee personally any loan made to the church by any board created by or under the authority of the General Conference.
In addition to the work of the Building Committee as prescribed in ❡2254, Sec. 5 of The United Methodist Book of Discipline, the Committee shall be responsible for identifying ways through education, direct action and advocacy, and community partnerships that advance our commitments to be an anti-racist, anti-sexist community that embodies our congregational vision to “feed all people–mind, body, and spirit–so that none go hungry.”
The Committee shall make every effort to leverage the potentials of Project development with furthering conversations at the congregational, neighborhood, County and State levels which help us address and respond to our historic participation in housing policies and practices which inordinately impact people of color and ethnic minorities. The Committee shall make every effort to choose environmentally sound, sustainable options at every stage of the process and to pursue solutions that will reduce our impact on the environment as much as possible.
The Committee shall also make every effort to document these efforts in ways that can be shared with other congregations and faith communities.
At its first meeting, the Committee shall elect a secretary who shall be responsible for recording minutes of all meetings. The Committee shall also determine what additional structures (sub-committees, working groups, etc.) it may need in order to conduct the work as prescribed above.
The Committee shall keep written minutes of all meetings and provide those minutes upon request to any Professing Member or Staff person in the congregation. The Committee shall identify a process for the routine posting of the minutes in a manner that is accessible to the members of the Church.
The Committee shall provide written updates on progress of the above stated responsibilities to the congregation and Leadership Council on a monthly basis. Other updates as deemed necessary may be provided by the Committee in collaboration with the Lead Pastor.