From Jackie Cottingham
Sir, — Christopher Whitney (Letters, 28 August) stated that a diocesan board of finance had a statutory duty to optimise returns from glebe land. Optimising returns can be interpreted more widely than solely as obtaining the best price.
Housing Justice’s Faith in Affordable Housing project aims to encourage churches to release their surplus land and buildings for affordable housing. Specific advice from the Charity Commission states that if disposal of land is made in furtherance of charitable purposes, then it can be made at below market value.
The Charity Commission also stated that many people would understand that part of the doctrine of Christianity was the assistance given to poor and needy people. Providing affordable housing can, therefore, be considered to be in furtherance of a Christian charity’s purpose.
Our experience of churches working with housing associations confirms that this is a powerful means of demonstrating Christian love to the community.
The Church in Wales has adopted a policy for affordable housing on its land. It will consider whether the sale represents best value in terms of the Church’s mission and ministry.
In specific circumstances, a church may decide that it must maximise the financial return on its land, but trustees can and should take other factors into consideration, such as serving the common good and furthering mission.
Faith in Affordable Housing Co-ordinator (England)
256 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3UJ