THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Church
Commissioners should invest some of their funds in housing
associations and other social enterprises that work to tackle
He made his comments during a question-and-answer session at the
National Housing Federation's annual conference in Birmingham last
Friday, where he had delivered a speech calling for a greater
partnership between housing associations and the Church of
Tess Pendle, the head of My Home Finance, a non-profit
organisation that provides low-cost credit and banking facilities
to financially excluded people, as an alternative to payday
lenders, asked whether "such a partnership might involve financial
investment from the Church".
In his speech, Archbishop Welby praised housing associations for
providing "security and stability" for their tenants. But he warned
of "the possibility of growing and large-scale" rent arrears caused
by a combination of "reductions in bene-fit to take account of what
is seen as excess house space, theso-called 'bedroom tax'; higher
costs for energy; and, for many,the fact that, with continuous
payment authorities, short-term lenders can take money direct from
an account within hours of it coming in."
He was not attacking the government or politicians, he said.In
many cases the problem was not with policies, but with the way in
which they were implemented.
He spoke against the "demonising" of people who relied on food
banks, and said that such facilities were "sadly necessary, as much
for those in work as out of it. . .
"If you combine higher costs, lower incomes in real terms, debt,
issue of policy delivery, greater risks to cash flow for housing
associations and communities that falsely appear to be locked into
decline, the challenge to human flourishing and to resilient
communities is obvious."
His bleak assessment of the challenges that face deprived
communities and those seeking to support them was balanced by an
upbeat view about the solutions.
"Responsibility falls on a lot of organisations, and our
collective response in the third sector," he said, "but,
especially, I want to suggest churches and housing associations
will be infinitely greater put together than our individual efforts
added up. . . The building blocks are already there, and in many
places have been happening for many years."
The motive for regeneration "must not be desperation or fear",
he said, "but love". The Church's social action was driven by the
example of Jesus, who "made a point of going wherever there were
people in need. He healed people from his own community and outside
it, he healed the grateful and the ungrateful, and he healed the
downright hostile. He did whatever he could wherever there was
need, and he didn't set conditions. That's the example that we're
trying to follow."
He acknowledged the "anxiety in the social-housing sector about
whether it is safe for housing associations to work with religious
groups", but said that "not only is it legal but it is very safe -
in fact, it is a great way forward."
Churches of all denominations were already working "in every
community", he said. "The majority of food banks are church-run.
Churches lead on debt counselling, have buildings in every
community, both schools and centres for worship and community life.
They provide cohesion, and demonstrate love and commitment."
He described the challenge as "a gigantic task of a generation",
but said: "Within our ranks is the capacity, if we work together,
work locally, and build great partnerships and coalitions" to
Archbishop Welby's speech was warmly received by the conference
delegates, as much for what he said as for the humorous way it was
The conference host, the BBC's Home Editor, Mark Easton,
introduced the Archbishop as "a man who heads an organisation with
a multi-billion-pound property portfolio that includes some of the
most prime sites in the country.His real estate houses tens of
thousands of key workers and their families.
"He also provides retirement homes in the rental sector, and,
more recently, shared ownership. In addition to that, he also has a
commercial property portfolio valued at £1.6 billion, with houses
in exclusive neighbourhoods such as Chelsea, Maida Vale, and around
In response, the Archbishop joked that the introduction was "as
accurate as all reports by the BBC".
Project's investors help homeless back on
by Paul Wilkinson
THE Archbishop of Canterbury is backing Green Pastures,
a project that works with churches to provide homes for people
living on the streets.
Based on Merseyside, it provides finance and expertise
to allow local "partners" to buy properties and help the homeless
to return to mainstream life.
It started in Southport, in 1999, when a group of
Christians decided to help homeless people, and set out to collect
funds to buy a property. Donations included £20,000 raised through
a mortgage on the donor's home. Within five years they had accepted
their first partner, and today Green Pastures has a national
network of 30 groups, which support more than 445
Each partner agrees to house and care for the homeless
in properties it finds, which are then bought by Green Pastures.
The partner pays a monthly lease, and maintains the property. The
charity also sets up a volunteer team to help with matters such as
bills, family advice, and claiming benefits.
One group is the Saviour Trust, started by the Revd
Victor Iwanushcak, of All Saints', Pontefract, in West Yorkshire.
He began by housing a homeless man in his garden shed. The trust
now accommodates more than 50 people.
In Sheffield, Green Pastures helped the
multi-denominational church St Thomas's, Philadelphia, to take over
a disused pub and convert it to house five homeless people. This
year, St Thomas's has gained permission for five purpose-built
flats to provide further accommodation.
Green Pastures is currently receiving more than £300,000
a month from Christian investors, who get a five-per-cent annual
return. So far this year, it has bought 18 bed-spaces. In addition,
it has just secured planning permission to build 97 social-housing
units in partnership with St Mark's, Barking, the Berkeley
Foundation, and Barking Council.
The organisation's co-founder, Peter Cunningham, said:
"We believe that the Church can eradicate homelessness, and we want
to facilitate that. The Archbishop of Canterbury is absolutely
right when he speaks about the Church having the power to transform
society, and looking at the partners we have in the Anglican
community, it is starting to happen."
For more information, visit www.greenpastures.net, or
phone 0300 365 4500.