Religious groups, unions join to build affordable housing in NYC

Religious institutions in the New York Metro area will partner with organized labor on a construction project that will build 5000 to 7500 affordable housing units in seven different locations. The project also includes new public community and care centers.

The new buildings will be built on properties owned by seven religious groups, and the work will be done by union labor.

An apprenticeship program will also be a part of the project.

The program will train apprentices for the building trades unions that will be working on the project. When enrolling people in the apprenticeship program, its administrators will seek out young workers in the communities where the affordable housing is being built.

The project is part of a long-range strategic project of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) to invest $1 billion in affordable housing that will be built by union labor in the New York Metro area.

Unions and New York City public pension funds are providing $300 million in financing for the current project.

The projects will create 1500 new construction jobs.

“The focus of these projects is to provide each community with quality housing affordable for working families, modern schools, and public recreation facilities and to do so in a way that creates jobs and maximizes the local economy in a sustainable manners,” said David Aviles, executive director of United Clergy Task Force (UCTF), a national non-denominational, non-profit community development corporation consisting of a consortium of religious leaders and affiliated houses of worship across the country.

UCTF is one of HIT’s partners on the project. Other partners include the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and a coalition of unions.

Aviles said that the religious institutions participating in the project are St. Paul Community Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY; Bay Ridge Community Church, Brooklyn, NY; Heavenly Temple Church of God, Jersey City, NJ; Al Iman Plaza Islamic Institution, Bronx, NY; Thessalonica Christian Church, Bronx, NY; La Hermosa Church, Bronx, NY; and Westchester United Methodist Church, Bronx, NY.

All have been stabilizing institutions in their communities and are interested in bringing more social services and economic opportunities to their communities.

Like most urban areas in the US, the New York City Metro area is facing a housing crisis. Decent affordable housing where workers can live safely and raise a family is being replaced by upscale housing that most people can’t afford.

During the last ten years, the Metro area has lost 400,000 housing units whose rents are less than $1000 a month.

Since 2000, median apartment rents increased by 75 percent.

John McDermont, of the Worker Education Consortium, which will operate the project’s apprenticeship program, described the project as “reverse gentrification.”

“We’re not building these (apartments and other buildings) so affluent people can move into the community; we’re building so these communities will become more affluent.” said McDermont.

Reverend David K. Brawley of St. Paul Community Baptist Church said that the project will do more than just create good housing and jobs.

“It has been said that the ultimate in urban renewal is not necessarily a new house, but a new man in a new house and the relationship of faith and labor today affords us the opportunity to make this a reality.”