MANY churches have been sitting on under-used land for years, as
the most needy in society struggle to find a home, a new report
Although it may be "entirely appropriate" for churches to seek
the full market price for their land, others are guilty of
"inactivity", and should consider their mission to serve the
vulnerable, it argues.
The report Our Common Heritage: Housing associations and
churches working together, by the Centre for Theology and
Community and the charity Housing Justice, says that the Church
cannot speak out on the housing crisis "without putting its own
house in order". Churches across the denominations own "a
surprising amount of land", it says.
"In some cases, churches will want and need the full market
price for their land, and this may be entirely appropriate.
Sometimes, housing associations can do this. There are also some
situations where churches have proved willing and able to dispose
of land to housing associations for less than market value."
The report seeks to reassure churches that this can be
reconciled with charity law: "There is a strong argument to be made
that, if such housing does indeed benefit the most marginalised and
needy members of society, then it falls squarely into the mission
of the Church."
It notes that "Many churches have been slow to consider
development of their land of any kind - often sitting on under-used
land for many years. . . Churches must rightly use their land
wisely, and with the long-term in mind; but this has been used as
an excuse by some for inactivity."
The report warns that "A city in which the poorest can no longer
afford to live, in neighbourhoods like Somers Town or Notting Hill,
but (as in Paris) are forced in to outer urban ghettoes - out of
sight and out of mind . . . says something deeply un-Christian
about which lives are of genuine value and significance."
Co-operation between churches and housing associations must be a
"top priority", it says. It gives the example of the initiative
Faith in Affordable Housing, delivered by Housing Justice, which
provides free practical advice and support to churches and housing
associations interested in providing new affordable housing on
church land. Almost 100 affordable homes have been built in two
In a speech to the National Housing Federation in 2013, the
Archbishop of Canterbury called for closer working between the
Church and housing associations, and said that the Church
Commissioners should invest some of their funds in housing
27 September 2013).
A spokesperson from the Church Commissioners said that they were
"long-established supporters of mixed tenure residential
communities [a mix of private and social or shared ownership
housing]. Working in partnership with house builders and housing
associations across England, the commissioners deliver affordable
and private housing in accordance with the requirements of
individual local authorities."