Reflecting on “Can We Get an Amen for Housing?”

On February 15th, we were thrilled to host “Can We Get an Amen for Housing?”, a Town Hall event that ignited discussions among more than 100 passionate community members about the pressing issue of workforce housing in our Valley. 

We’re grateful to the Vintage High School Chamber Singers for opening the evening with their songs, setting the stage for a night filled with community and collaboration. A special thank you to Napa Methodist Church for their hospitality, Burbank Housing for their support, and to our speakers: Derrick Morgan, Cherie Ong, Dave Whitmer, Jocelyn Lin, and Erica Roetman Sklar, for their valuable insights.

One of the night’s resounding messages was the power of leveraging faith-based properties for community benefit. Here’s a closer look at the insights shared:

1. Building workforce housing on faith-based properties works:

Derrick Morgan and Cherie Ong shared their perspectives on the potential of faith-based properties to address the housing crisis. About three and a half years ago, Derrick and Cherie’s investment and development firms started working with a United Methodist Church, which owned a 2.5-acre property near the Atlanta airport. The result is a collaborative effort between the church, developers, and the community to reimagine and repurpose the church’s property into something that would benefit the wider community.

“We worked with them to help reimagine their campus.” Shared Derrick, who co-founded mission-driven real estate development firm KNGDM Group after he retired from a nine-year NFL career. “What came out of it was that they wanted to create an arts-focused housing community. We ended up with 60 units of affordable housing, made possible through a low-income tax credit deal, and one of the best parts was that we brought in an arts nonprofit partner, who now has a permanent home on the campus.”

2. SB4 is a potential game-changer for faith communities willing to explore the possibilities:

The newly enacted California law, SB4, was heralded as a beacon of hope at the Town Hall. The legislation simplifies the approval process for developing housing on land owned by faith-based and educational organizations. The law is a game-changer that makes it easier, faster, and less expensive for churches to partner with developers in creating workforce housing.

Cherie and Derrick talked about the importance of aligning possible projects with both the church’s mission and the community’s needs. Cherie shared how her firm, Good Places, helps lead churches through the development exploration process.

“There’s a readiness step that enables a good development to emerge. We’re finding that the more aligned we can help churches be before the development stage, the better. Church leaders need to ask, ‘What is this Church’s place in the community?’ That process leads to reimagining what’s possible together with the community’s input. Even though there’s an urgency around housing, it’s something that can’t be missed. The quality of the development really depends on taking those steps.”

3. Napa is a deeply engaged community:

We were so heartened by the turnout at our Town Hall. When more than 100 people come together on a rainy Thursday night to engage in dialogue, ask questions, and explore solutions, it’s a testament to our community’s commitment to finding tangible solutions for our housing challenges.

This enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the conversation show that Napa Valley is ready to come together to make a difference. The community is engaged and cares. This was evident as attendees voiced their concerns, suggestions, and support for the proposed initiatives.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our attendees and to all of our speakers for making “Can We Get an Amen for Housing?” a memorable and impactful event. It’s clear from the discussions that there’s a strong desire across Napa Valley to tackle the housing crisis head-on and bring new ideas to the table. 

If you missed the event,  you can watch the whole discussion below:  

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