How to Leverage Your Church Property to Meet Your Ministry’s Goals

Centerville Presbyterian Church has been rooted in Fremont, California, for more than 150 years. But the director of contemporary worship lives in Tracy, California, and the children’s director lives in Pleasanton, California. Like many other churches throughout California, Centerville Presbyterian Church (CPC) is facing the very real and growing challenge of offering affordable housing for key staff.

“How do you minister in your own community when your team can’t even afford to live there?” asks Senior Pastor Greg Roth, who has been at CPC, along with his wife, Senior Associate Pastor Marsha Roth, for 22 years. “We can’t even recruit staff. We had to do something out of the box to retain and recruit staff for the next generation.”

About two years ago, Roth floated the idea of building a duplex on a quarter-acre of land that was once home to the original little white church but has been an empty plot since the structure was destroyed by an arson fire in 1993. But when he started exploring his options, he was overwhelmed by the real estate regulations and processes.

“I was going to have to figure it all out,” Roth says. “But it was beyond my comfort zone and bandwidth.”

Then Roth met Dominic Dutra, founder and Chief Strategy Officer of DCG. After performing a feasibility analysis, DCG collaborated with Roth and his staff to develop a long-term strategic vision that would leverage the land as a resource and asset while protecting the interests of the church community.

The proposal included constructing eight to twelve residential townhome units on the surplus property owned by the church. Some of the units could be leased at the market rate to help subsidize rent on the remaining units, which would be leased to key church staff at affordable rates.

During the presentation to the church elders, DCG real estate professionals reinforced how the proposal would support the church’s efforts to recruit and retain key staff — a significant factor in the future sustainability of any church ministry.

“The ask of the church was very easy,” Roth says. “They get it. We’re priced out of staffing options, and we’re having to try different things to retain high-quality staff.”

As a part of the process, DCG presented the project to the Planning Commission and City Council. The plan unanimously passed Fremont’s General Plan Amendment Prioritization Policy process — a new initiative intended to screen and prioritize requests for market rate residential development projects — and DCG is moving forward with the entitlement process for the rental townhomes.

“If I’d known about DCG, I would have launched this five or six years earlier,” Roth says. “This is a forward-looking win-win for our congregation.”

If you are exploring the use of church property to develop affordable housing for ministry staff, seniors, veterans or other groups, attend a complimentary webinar 10 a.m., Thursday, May 11, hosted by DCG and joined by Roth, who will share insights and expertise on the entitlement process and how residential housing could be part of your ministry outreach.