How Embrace Living Partners with UCC Churches

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Since our founding in 1895, Embrace Living Communities has had ties to the United Church of Christ (UCC), even before it was called the UCC. We have always been a faith-based organization, and that commitment to the mission of the Church informs why we do what we do, which is providing low-income seniors and people with disabilities welcoming homes where they can age well with dignity.

This commitment also informs our desire to work with churches in the UCC’s Illinois Conference to better their communities through affordable housing development. Our goal is to start developing communities with churches in the Conference, especially in and around Chicago, in addition to the 30 communities we already operate for more than 2,500 seniors and people with disabilities.

Affordable Housing Promotes the Vitality of the Church

“So many of our churches are justice-oriented,” says Molly Carlson, Conference Minister of the Illinois Conference. “The Church has been in decline for decades, and some congregations feel desperate. I try to affirm churches that the number of people in their congregations doesn’t equate to the vitality of their ministries. They need to ask how they are utilizing the resources and assets that they do have, how they are serving their communities and how God is at work through their churches.”

How We Partner to Build Affordable Housing Communities

One way to utilize resources and serve communities is by developing affordable housing in partnership with Embrace Living Communities. However, this undertaking can feel overwhelming for churches that have never taken on a project so big. 

For this reason, many churches don’t think about the possibilities their land and property hold. They know they could be better utilizing their land and helping their neighbors, but they don’t know where to start. 

That’s where our Embrace Living Property Solutions services come into play. We bring more than 125 years of trusted and proven property advancement services to property owners, including churches, seeking to operate sustainable and welcoming affordable housing communities.

We work collaboratively with churches to vision cast what could be, and then we use our assets, knowledge and resources to do most of the affordable housing development-related heavy lifting to get the project started and seen through.

One resource we provide is a feasibility study for a senior affordable property on a church’s land. We also have access to land use attorneys, who provide information regarding zoning, restrictions and any other requirements that need to be understood specific to the area. Essentially, we can do much of the administrative work to get things going.

We can also provide all the information the church needs to understand what a senior affordable housing property requires. This includes compliance with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, inspections, reporting, etc. 

We want to be a true partner with churches throughout the duration of these affordable housing development projects, from brainstorming to managing communities once they’ve been built. The participation from the church will primarily be as active board members, advocates and catalysts for community involvement. 

Affordable Housing Benefits Both Communities and Churches

Building an affordable housing community allows churches to not only provide affordable, welcoming homes to their neighbors in need but also help themselves by providing financial sustainability where value is created for the church because their land is being put to good use.

“We recognize the need for affordable housing across Illinois, and we recognize that churches also see this need,” says Ralph Gaines, Embrace Living CEO. “We can come together as partners and leverage each other’s assets and resources to create more affordable housing and come up with a solution together.”

“ELC is an organization that truly cares,” says Carlson. “Yes, they manage their money and do all the right things, but they do it because they care about God’s people, God’s creation and the least of these, and they really focus their energy on making a difference in the world.”

For more information on how you can partner with Embrace Living, contact Alina Serban at (630) 521-8061. You can also visit