Minimum Standards for Housing


Editor's Note: The following was originally posted on John Flowers's blog, Church for Tomorrow and has been reposted with permission.


Close to Drew Street in south central LA there were apartments which were unlivable and owned by an absentee landlord. The municipality of that area said ” We cannot make you bring your property up to standards of decency and we will not try, but if you don’t….. you will be required to live in this apartment complex yourself.” The authorities struck gold for urban renewal and soon this inadequate housing turned livable. I have learned this week, at a roundtable conversation on Ministry With The Poor, that in south Dallas there are apartments with no refrigerator and no stove. Desperately poor folks live there. What if we could change that? The UMC has “minimum standards for church owned housing” (parsonages) so why not insist that there be refrigerators and stoves in every rental apartment of this south Dallas area? What if this became a movement? What if Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, and Baptists all joined the fight? The North Texas Annual Conference is to be commended for its commitment to eradicate to poverty in two different zip codes in their conference.  Maybe the North Texas annual conference session this year, a motion for “minimum housing standards” could be presented and passed. In a interdenominational effort, (maybe even an interfaith effort) the slum lords could be hunted down, demands for adequate housing articulated, and, if not met, the protest could begin. Media coverage would be easy to find. We are just asking for a refrigerator and stove for each household for God’s sake! This is the work of the church! Let the fighting about having drinks in the sanctuary, or what color the parlor carpet should be, take a back seat. What if the church only fought about matters which were substantive and justice related?  The church and synagogue folks around the country have the chance to be real, relevant, and relational. Are we ready to make a difference?



John Flowers

John Flowers loves ministry with the poor, watching “dry bones breathe,” teaching, mentoring, and coaching congregations. He was the 2005 graduate of the year award winner for St. Paul seminary who recognized his work in social justice. He thinks and acts outside of the box, and pushes boundaries.  He can be contacted at

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Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.