PLANS are under way to set up a Church of England housing association to provide social housing on church-owned land across the dioceses.
In February of last year, the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing published its report, Coming Home, which described as “a national scandal” the fact that eight million people in England live in overcrowded, unaffordable, or unsuitable homes (News, 26 February 2021).
On Tuesday, members of the Commission, Church Commissioners, and other leaders met online to review progress on the recommendations in the report, which included using some of the 200,000 acres of land owned by the Church for social and environmental benefit.
The Archbishop of Canterbury told the meeting that a radical approach was needed. “The housing crisis is getting worse rather than better because of high levels of inflation and very rapidly rising levels of poverty, with incomes rising far below the level of inflation, and the likelihood of recession — all these have put enormous pressure on housing,” he said. “If you are building a more just society, housing is one of the main building blocks.”
YouTubeThe Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, addresses the meeting
The First Church Estates Commissioner, Alan Smith, said that church pilot schemes were key to this. The Commissioners were building 30,000 new homes on 60 sites across England; fewer than one third, 9000 homes, would be affordable, however. He said: “We want to start digging beneath that — truly affordable — and begin to push into areas of affordable housing where there is a big gap, and where the truly vulnerable are not being served right now.”
Church land was not enough, however, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, who is the lead bishop for housing, said. “This degree of social change . . . requires more land and buildings than we currently have, and it needs to be deliverable to every part of the country. If we only develop housing on the land we currently own, we’ll never bring about the justice we long to see; nor will it be enough to turn the tide of the current housing crisis.
“That’s why we are proposing to set up a Church Housing Association which will enable us to deliver housing, social change, and ministry funding beyond the realms of our existing inheritance into more marginalised areas where the need is greatest.”