Church and state: New program to help houses of worship figure out real estate industry

New York Land Opportunity Program will give churches free advice from property experts
August 22, 2017 03:20PM

Shiloh Church of Christ at 7 West 128th Street (Credit: Google Maps)

Churches trying to understand the complex and occasionally treacherous nature of one of the world’s oldest industries — real estate — will no longer have to pray for relief.

A new initiative called the New York Land Opportunity Program will provide charitable institutions in the city with free advice from lawyers, architects and more to help them figure out what they can do with their land while keeping a presence in their communities for charity work and continuing to own their property, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The program is a joint effort from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Mayors Community Affairs Unit and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Officials have selected five churches as the pilot group, including St. John’s Global Ministries in Queens and the Shiloh Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ in Harlem.

The initiative also aims to help New York solve its broader issue of having very little city land left to develop but several parcels scattered throughout the city owned by religious or nonprofit groups.

The Archdiocese of New York recently ruled that 12 churches in the city are no longer sacred, meaning they could be sold going forward.

Pastor Sheila Gillams of the Shiloh Church of Christ told the Journal that she gets unsolicited offers for her parcels several times a week, and they are almost always incredibly low.

In these deals, she said, “congregations get fleeced.” [WSJ] – Eddie Small