41 - Transforming idle church properties into thriving communities of sustainable impact


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Churches across the globe are in crisis. The arrival of COVID-19 served to dramatically accelerate a decades-long systemic decline in church attendance as the expectations and preferences of congregants have changed across generations. Falling church attendance has meant declining revenue and mounting financial pressure to maintain expensive real estate and buildings that sit increasingly idle. Ultimately these churches may face closure and even demolition. In Canada, it is estimated that nearly one in three churches is on track to close in the next decade.

And while we live in an increasingly secular society, as today's guest will articulate, churches represent an incredibly important social infrastructure that a vast number of social programs rely upon. In Toronto alone, over 100 non-profit organizations operate from church buildings or land. Losing these churches (which are often rented out at below-market rates to non-profits) would be catastrophic for many secular social purpose organizations and the vulnerable communities they serve.

Enter today's guest, Graham Singh, Founder & CEO of Trinity Centres Foundation, who joins us today to talk about his innovative work using impact investing to finance the transformation of idle church properties into thriving places of sustainable community impact. Over the past 15 years, Graham has led four historic building and community renewal projects in the United Kingdom and Canada. Graham is an ordained minister in the Anglican Church and has a long line of academic credentials that include a Master's from the London School of Economics, a Bachelor of Ministry from the University of Cambridge, and a BA in political science from Huron University.

During this episode, Graham and I discuss the crisis that the church in Canada is facing, the role churches play as important social infrastructure, the role of blended finance in solving the financial challenges churches face, and the types of investors and organizations that are suitable partners in this work. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end where we discuss the importance of the church in placemaking; the process of co-creating quality places that people want to live, work, play, and learn in.

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