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Collister United Methodist Church offers land to create affordable housing

The church and LEAP Housing - a local non-profit working to provide affordable housing - teamed up to create two single-family home units.

BOISE, Idaho — Joe Bankard arrived at the Collister United Methodist Church six years ago to serve as the Senior Pastor.

He quickly realized several problems in the local neighborhood; it's the same neighborhood he calls home.

"This neighborhood definitely has a lot of people that are struggling financially," Bankard said. "People struggling to keep their rentals, or to afford the taxes on the homes they own. Availability is limited."

Church leadership started a conversation about how to be part of the solution.

Collister United Methodist Church owns .3 acres just behind their parking lot. It's land the church believes is best suited to serve as housing for those in need.

"I'm not an expert in building houses. I'm not an expert on how to write grants," Bankard said.

Bankard found those experts at LEAP Housing - a local non-profit focused on creating and preserving affordable housing.

The church provided the property. LEAP provided the knowledge and necessary resources the make the dream a reality. Construction on two 4-bedroom, 2-bath single-family homes broke in March 2022.

LEAP dubbed this project Taft Homes. The units will be open to house tenants by the end of the calendar year, according to LEAP.

It's a partnership bound by a 50-year lease. Collister United Methodist Church is charging LEAP 1 dollar per year.

"Really anybody can play a role in solving the affordable housing challenge," LEAP Founder and CEO Bart Cochran said. "Collister sees this as philanthropic, and this is the way they are contributing to the community."

Once completed, housing-first non-profit CATCH is responsible for referring tenant through its rapid rehousing program. Tenants can earn no more than 30% of the area median income (AMI).

The City of Boise defines households earning 30% AMI as "extremely low income." For a 4-person family, 30% AMI household earn $25,250 per year.

Numbers from CATCH show roughly 80% of families that complete the rapid rehousing program remain in stable housing.

"I feel so proud that we're able to do that, even though I know the need is much greater than what we're providing. But it's something," Bankard said. "I really hope other faith communities of all sorts will look at what they might have, land they might have, that could be used to help start solving some of the problems related to housing in our community. Because this is our calling."

LEAP calls this partnership with the Collister church, "Yes in God's Backyard" (YIGBY). It's a spin off from "Not in my Backyard" (NIMBY)

NIMBY refers to people who may support low-income and affordable housing and/or homeless emergency shelter facilities; however, on the condition these resources are not near their property or residence.

"Today, there isn’t a greater need than housing," Cochran said. "It just so happens that churches are some of the largest excess landowners in our city. They have so much potential to be not only just players in solving the affordable housing challenge, they may be the solution."

LEAP received funding for this project through federal grants, according to Cochran. Local organizations - including Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the City of Boise, REALTORS Community Foundation, Intermountain MLS, and Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation - also provided funding and other necessary resources to build Taft Homes.

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