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Church pursues affordable-housing project under program spurring religious groups to build across Brooklyn

A Brooklyn church will be getting into the development game with help from a fledgling program that aims to help Kings County houses of worship cash in on their real estate assets.

The borough is home to about 2,400 religious organizations, according to the office of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and most would like more money to pursue their missions, or are financially strapped due to a combination of increased capital costs and decreasing revenue. Many also happen to be sitting on increasingly valuable real estate.

"These churches want to stay in their communities, and so we want to give them the technical assistance and guide them through the process so a project won't go belly up," said Pastor Gilbert Monrose, who runs the borough president's Faith-Based Property Development Initiative.

On Monday, the office announced that The Church of God of East Flatbush is planning a 481-unit affordable housing development on a full-block site currently home to auto-body shops, between New Lots and Hegeman avenues and Christopher Avenue and Sackman Street, in East Flatbush. The church teamed up with a development team including Procida Cos. to build the project, which will have space for a new sanctuary in the basement.

The East Flatbush project, called Ebenezer Plaza, is the second to move forward with the help of the office. Last week, the borough president and the head of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced that Calvary Community Church in Crown Heights recently sold a piece of property to developer Hudson Cos., which will construct 185 apartments for low-income households and seniors.

While land values in the city have been on a precipitous rise since 2000, many religious organizations have lacked the real estate expertise to know how to take advantage of the market. In 2014, Adams created the office to provide technical assistance to groups that want to capitalize on their property.

While some organizations are located in neighborhoods where they could either partner or sell a site to a developer to build market-rate housing, others are in areas where affordable-housing subsidies would be needed for any construction.

Interested parties have thus far been concentrated in northern and central Brooklyn neighborhoods, but the borough president's office hopes to shepherd about 10 developments to fruition in 2017.

"Obviously some [houses of worship] need funds to fix their buildings, but others want to do socially mindful things on their properties, like run a soup kitchen; so there is a whole range of options," said Richard Bearak, director of land use at the borough president's office.

Shortly after the borough president's initiative was created, a number of religious leaders formed a nonprofit called Kingdom Faith Developers Corp., which has been meeting for the past year and learning how to work with the city to develop affordable housing. The group may bid on future city projects.

See the original article here.

Phillip Rivers