Exclusionary zoning – it’s a major and common barrier to eradicating poverty. Zoning policies that maintain extremely low density of housing in urban areas usually exclude structures that can house multiple families and subsequently exclude families who can only afford less expensive mortgages or rents. Coupled with the ever-increasing cost of affordable homes, more and more working families are no longer able to own a home of their own. Home ownership is one of the major avenues for creating generational financial stability to break the cycle of poverty.
In November 2021, a Matthew 25 action of the Presbytery of Denver advocated on behalf of Mountain View United Church in Aurora, CO which has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver to increase the number of affordable housing units in Aurora. The Mountain View United Church congregation, an ecumenical congregation affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ, the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Presbytery of Denver had been working for several years to design affordable homes on two acres next to the church building. Under the leadership of Pastors Wayne Laws and Tracy Hughes and staff of Habitat for Humanity, a fiscally feasible site plan for 10 duplexes (20 home units) was designed in cooperation with the Planning Commission of the City of Aurora. There was one last hurdle to get this project “off the ground” – the City Council of Aurora would need to approve a change in the zoning status of the land parcel to allow 20 housing units to be built. The rezoning request would be a challenge, first because a super-majority of councilor votes (at least 6 of 9 votes) would be required to pass a motion to rezone the property and, secondly, because there were strong opposing voices from neighborhood residents.
Matthew 25 went into action, first asking the Colorado Council of Churches to join the effort and, secondly seeking testimony for hearings and email support to City of Aurora councilors from members of PC(USA) congregations located in the City of Aurora and in Denver. There was testimony by individuals (pastors and congregants) as well as testimonies representing the Matthew 25 group of the Presbytery of Denver and the Colorado Council of Churches. After hours of testimony from re-zoning supporters and from neighbors against the project, the final City Council vote was 6 to 3 in favor of rezoning the land parcel. Ground-breaking, poverty-breaking, is scheduled for April 2022