• Center for Community Change

Building our own Leadership: Interfaith Communities Bring Affordable Housing into the Worship Space

For many communities of faith, advocacy has been a long-standing practice. For Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU), a part of the larger, secular East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), the annual Housing Sabbath is an important opportunity to continue their work supporting communities and advocating for access to more equitable and affordable housing. The importance of affordable housing (and the lack thereof) is staggeringly apparent in the Bay Area, where from 2010 to 2014 median rents increased 38% while middle and low-income workers experienced inflation adjusted wage decreases of almost 5% during a similar period. Initiatives like the Housing Sabbath are designed to look at these issues through a faith lens and incorporate one’s personal beliefs and practices into actions aimed at helping the community as a whole.

The goal of the Housing Sabbath (which takes place the weekend before EBHO’s Affordable Housing Week, and most recently occurred May 5th through May 7th of 2017) is to bring the topic of affordable housing into the worship space. ICU believes that the unique resources of the faith community, both material and spiritual, are vital tools to be used in social transformation work, especially housing justice. As such, they bring together resident leaders of affordable housing and local faith leaders with EBHO staff and board members to educate denominations on the opportunities and responsibilities of communities of faith. The primary function of the Housing Sabbath, however, is to serve as a call to action. This action can be something as simple as participating in events during the upcoming Affordable Housing Week, but may lead to the cultivation of life-long housing advocates.

For ICU, it is important to realize that the Housing Sabbath is just one part of their larger work. Rather than being an end in and of itself, the Housing Sabbath is a means to engaging people in the year-long organizing and activism efforts needed in the fight for housing justice. As faith communities continue to utilize their vast property, material, and spiritual resources, they have the capacity to mobilize congregations to make positive changes in their community.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow