This past month and a half, I have been researching ‘Yes in God’s Backyard” (YIGBY) initiatives throughout the country. YIGBY builds upon the research I did this summer on church congregations using their underutilized land for affordable housing projects, and expands upon the idea of getting faith congregations involved in the fight against the growing affordable housing crisis. The acronym itself is a counter to the popular term “Not in My Backyard” which is commonly used to describe community pushback against affordable housing or other similar projects. Further, YIGBY tackles the reality that faith communities often face several logistical barriers to building affordable housing, including zoning regulations, limited funding, and a lack of expertise.
Instead, YIGBY hopes to further open the door for congregations by streamlining the building process and guiding congregations through the varying decisions they must make. Traditional affordable housing projects take about six years to complete and generally use tax credit financing; This is not self-sustaining and requires complex financing. Therefore, YIGBY’s goal is to make such projects self-sustaining and with a much cheaper price tag.
Senate Bill 4
Senate Bill 4, “The Affordable Housing on Faith and Higher Education Lands Act of 2023,” is a major stride for the YIGBY community, supporting the movement’s momentum. According to the bill’s contents, it would “provide a streamlined approval process and baseline standards for affordable housing on properties owned by faith-based organizations and nonprofit colleges.” Organizations that own a significant amount of land, are now eligible for SB 4 incentives which can be used for affordable housing. Further, SB 4 would allow FBOs to develop 100% affordable housing projects “by right” meaning they could side-step lengthy, expensive, and uncertain reviews imposed by local governments that often restrict affordable housing projects.
By expanding affordable housing options in this way, more congregations can answer the call to justice and action that all faith communities are responsible for responding to. And in turn, more people can begin to afford what everyone deserves: a place to live.