New Legislation Addresses Parking for Houses of Worship

Source: Religious News Service

A new piece of legislation was introduced in the California state house by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, a Democrat in Oakland, introduced a piece of legislation proposing reducing the number of residential parking spaces required for newly built religious institutions.

If adopted into law, the legislation would provide fewer restrictions on urban congregations in city centers seeking to expand who may not be currently able to do so because of being priced out by the necessity to offer parking.

For IKAR, a Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, the new law would allow them to build not only their new synagogue building, but also an affordable housing unit on its property without needing to purchase the additional land in the urban real estate market for marking.

Currently, California law does ease parking requirements for housing on religious properties by allowing religious institutions to remove up to 50% of their existing parking to build affordable housing on their site, but local municipalities have interpreted it to apply only to existing religious institutions.

“These interpretations strictly limit the applicability of this important housing option for all future congregations that may wish to support and address the housing needs of their local community,” according to the fact sheet.

Wicks said, “This legislation makes sense.”

“You have a nonprofit developer who wants to build housing. You have a church who has the land who wants to build the housing. We have a big need for affordable housing, and yet it wasn’t happening because the cities were putting these parking requirements on these churches around how many parking spots they need depending on the size of the church,” Wicks said.

“This felt like an honestly pretty simple solution,” she added.

The issue of houses of worship seeking to provide residential spaces has been part of a larger trend in California faith-based circles as congregations seek to provide affordable housing options in the state with both the highest number of homeless individuals and percentage of homeless children/adults in the country. Currently, the average home value exceeds $500,000.

As of March 2, LA Voice, a network of multi-faith houses of worship, including synagogues, mosques and churches as well as the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing and United Way of LA have endorsed the legislation as it moves through committee to a vote of the body of the General Assembly.

Source: Religious News Service