Racial and Housing Justice: The Story of Andre White 9/16/21
Church is community.
Church is love.
Church is serving those in need spiritually, mentally, economically.
Church enhances and works for humanity.
Affordable housing is community.
Affordable housing is love.
Affordable housing serves those in need.
Affordable housing enhances and works for humanity.
These words by Andre White were shared at a rally for affordable housing at Pasadena’s City Hall on August 2nd to describe why he supports allowing churches to have affordable housing built on their land.
White has spent the last seventeen years working affordable and market-rate housing in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and South Carolina. He was born on Hilton Head Island, off the coast of South Carolina, in the African American community of Mitchelville. The formerly enslaved either escaped to this island or escaped from plantations located on the Island during the Civil War when it was occupied by the Union Army. When the Civil War ended, his family received 40 acres (but no mule) and zealously guarded their land and struggled for housing justice ever since. The example of his family and his ancestors inspired White to fight for justice.
White left the island and earned a Master of Design Studies in Real Estate with a concentration in development, investment and housing from Harvard University and a degree in Marketing from South Carolina State University. He worked on Wall Street for a while but felt unfulfilled and went back to Hilton Head to help his community, which was being exploited by resort and homebuilding developers.
In 2016, White moved to Pasadena when his wife enrolled in Fuller Seminary. A man of faith, he was shocked to learn that Fuller sold a series of existing, low-cost apartment buildings to a market-rate developer rather than to keep the property affordable. He heard that a local activist named Jill Shook was campaigning to keep this housing affordable and he arranged to meet her.
Shook has worked for housing justice for over 20 years and is co-founder of a nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH). When Shook described how her nonprofit was seeking to advise congregations wanting to have affordable housing built on their underutilized property, White was all in. He became a Board member of MHCH and joined the Congregational Land Committee.
“Churches are often at the mercy of developers,” he explained. “Even non-profit developers present churches with business terms that are not economically beneficial. Churches need someone who can help ensure that they to get a good deal and accomplish the mission.”
Many churches are struggling to survive, especially in Northwest Pasadena, where gentrification has caused a quarter of Pasadena’s African American community to leave the city. White helped develop a feasibility study for New Life Holiness, an African American church that wants to build 52 units of affordable housing on its excess land but can’t do so because it’s zoned commercial. “
Trying to rezone a single church property can be expensive and risky” explained White. “That’s why we are trying to convince the City Council to rezone all congregational land in our city.”
MHCH wants Pasadena to adopt a city-wide zone change similar to Seattle’s. The zone change was being considered by the Pasadena City Council, but was taken off the agenda. MHCH is mobilizing support to bring it back and get it approved.
“I enjoy the work I’m doing with MHCH,” said White, “and I know MHCH deserves fiscal and volunteer support. MHCH knows how to influence our elected officials by mobilizing hundreds of people to send letters to City Council supporting affordable housing initiatives. I feel that I’m bringing about real change by working with MHCH.”