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Diocese, Kindred Works to sign agreement

Illustration of two churches with apartment buildings behind.

By Stuart Mann

The Diocese is entering into an agreement with Kindred Works that will help parishes that want to redevelop their properties to include mixed-income housing. Synod Council approved the agreement at its April meeting.

“This is a big first step,” says Peter Patterson, co-chair of the Diocese’s Property Committee. “Kindred shares the same values as us and the same idea about ownership. We’re looking forward to working with them.”

Established by the United Church of Canada, Kindred Works is an independent company that redevelops and manages land on behalf of the United Church, its congregations and ecumenical partners, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Its goal is to upgrade church properties to include housing and shared spaces that are built to meet community needs and promote sustainability.

Mr. Patterson and co-chair Stu Hutcheson say Kindred Works is a good partner for the Diocese because it supports the Diocese’s position that the Church should retain ownership of the property. “It’s important that the land we’re using is not sold to a developer, where we can lose control and our objectives may be compromised,” says Mr. Hutcheson. “In the agreement with Kindred, the Diocese and the parish remain the owners of the land and any improvements.”

Kindred Works also shares the Diocese’s vision of environmentally friendly and well-managed buildings that include market-level and affordable housing, they say.

Under the agreement, Kindred Works, in consultation with the parish, will produce a feasibility study consisting of a review of current zoning and zoning potential, a market analysis, initial potential massing and a high-level viability assessment. If Synod Council approves the feasibility study, Kindred Works will put together a development plan that will include a preliminary planning review, a heritage risk assessment, a market study review of comparable rentals, and up to three massing studies for the property. The plan will include budgets for the development and construction of the property.

Upon approval by Synod Council, the development plan will be submitted to the city, town or municipality in which the parish is located. If approved, Kindred Works will contract with the Diocese to provide construction and management services.

Much of the financing for the redevelopment projects is expected to come from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation), a crown corporation that seeks to make housing affordable for everyone in Canada. If CMHC cannot provide all the funds necessary for a project, the parish, the Diocese or a third-party investor will have to provide funding.

Parishes that want to redevelop their properties with Kindred Works will first need to state what their mission is. If their plan meets diocesan goals and includes providing affordable housing, they will be put on a list of parishes to be considered for redevelopment with Kindred Works. The College of Bishops will prioritize the list.

Mr. Hutcheson cautions that it will take time for projects to come to fruition, given their complexity and the number of people needed to provide input and expertise. “Five years is not an unreasonable timeline from start to occupancy.”

Kindred Works currently has eight projects in Ontario and New Brunswick on the go, with several more in the planning stage, including redevelopments at St. Mary and St. Martha’s two sites in Toronto.

Parishes that want to redevelop their properties to include housing – or perhaps without housing at all – do not have to work with Kindred Works, but they must retain ownership of the property and demonstrate that they have the means and expertise to successfully complete the project. Under the Diocese’s Canon 6, all such projects must be approved by Synod Council.

Mr. Patterson says the agreement with Kindred Works provides a framework that will make the Diocese’s redevelopment process more efficient. “Every redevelopment for every parish will be different, but by nailing down some of the things we can agree on and do beforehand, that will save us a lot of time and money. If everything had to be replicated every time there was a redevelopment project, it would bring the parish and the Diocese to its knees.”

He says the agreement is an important step in the Diocese’s efforts to address the housing crisis in Ontario. “Affordable housing is something we all care about and is something we want to have as an outcome in situations where that is appropriate.”

Last fall, Synod passed a motion calling for the Diocese to develop an affordable housing plan that will determine the feasibility of building affordable housing on diocesan-owned lands; prioritize strategic partnerships with industry experts in the fields of planning, development and affordable housing provision; establish specific, achievable targets; and clearly define the meaning of affordability for each project.

In June 2021, the Diocese offered a workshop for parishes that provided a theological perspective on land and an overall governance framework for development projects. Over the course of the summer, a series of four webinars were offered that covered a variety of topics that included looking at other faith-based housing projects, planning for inclusion and diversity, ecologically sustainable development, financial sustainability, and looking at development through the eyes of a non-profit developer.

After the workshops, parishes indicated that they were looking for greater clarity and guidance around the redevelopment process and more support from the Diocese as they consider whether redevelopment is the next step in their faith journey. The Property Committee’s ongoing work in this area, including the agreement with Kindred Works, is a response to that.