A San Diego church is gaining support to build affordable housing in its parking lot. They are calling the initiative "Yes In God's Backyard."
“YIGBY is Yes In God’s Backyard, it’s a great acronym for what we hope to be able to do, to use places of worship as a place to build affordable housing,” said Pastor Jonathan Doolittle.
Doolittle is the pastor of Clairemont Lutheran Church; he explained to NBC 7 how he wants to help San Diego’s homeless crisis.
“There’s lots of places with unused land and it’s a way to take advantage of the resources congregations have in order to make better use for the whole community,” Doolittle said.
Doolittle said his congregation does not need their entire parking lot. He said parishioners are willing to park along the street and give up that space, for those in need of a home.
“We certainly don’t use our entire parking lot except for Sunday morning and holiday celebrations,” said Doolittle.
For three years Clairemont Lutheran Church has been working on developing their fellowship hall, but recently Doolittle said he realized there was more he could do for his community.
“There’s a need for affordable housing to get people off the streets and get people a step up in life,” he said.
Doolittle said his church has 20 percent of the land they do not need, which is why he wants to build either 16 units of affordable housing or three stories of seven units each on their parking lot.
“That’s the point of YIGBY, is being able to take it from one congregation’s idea and model it to something that can be replicated and done all over the city,” he said.
However, the City of San Diego has given Doolittle pushback on his project.
“What we have thought of for so long makes sense for other people and the roadblocks we’ve seen from the City truly are not necessary for a needed housing project to move forward,” he said.
City code however includes parking regulations, meaning a church needs parking spaces for every square inches of pew space.
Doolittle said his church did a month-long study to prove they have a parking surplus, but they still dealt with resistance from City leaders. Despite the City's push for affordable housing.
“The major problem we have with homelessness is trying to find housing for people,” said Tom Theisen, the former Chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.
Theisen is a housing advocate and he said this idea might catch the attention of those who say, “Not In My Backyard Phenomenon.”
“We want to talk to residents about concerns, we’re not doing large mega projects, were doing 10-20-30 units max on these properties,” said Theisen.
Developers involved aim to build 3,000 apartments or homes across city churches within the next five to six years.