‘Coming Home’: what role should the Church play in housing?

Feb 25, 2021 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

“Across the UK, eight million people currently live in substandard housing, 800,000 people are in overcrowded households and one in five households face real difficulties in paying their mortgage or rent”, writes the Archbishop of Canterbury with the Bishop of Kensington. “Churches up and down the country know this only too well”, they remind us, “they offer shelter to homeless people, try to help those struggling to pay essential bills, and see foodbanks triple in size in a pandemic. While some progress has been made, we still have a housing crisis.”

The Church of England has long been involved in trying to resolve complex social issues in order to ameliorate people’s suffering, because this is the vocation of the universal Church. The missional principle is sound: if you want people to listen to your sermons of salvation, first multiply the loaves and fish to fill their bellies. It’s hard to concentrate when you’re hungry, and it is very, very difficult to raise a family and educate your children when you’re moved from hostel to hostel or living in damp and mouldy squalor.

Justin Welby and Graham Tomlin summarise the crisis: “..overcrowding, an unstable rental market, the constant threat of eviction, social housing waiting lists, homelessness and, of course, the impact on family and community life.” And the statistics are alarming: “In 1966 there were 12,400 people in temporary accommodation supplied by local councils. Today there are a quarter of a million.”

There was of course no mass immigration in 1966, and there was no freedom of movement before accession to the EEC is in 1973. But these points aren’t mentioned in the Church of England’s report ‘Coming Home‘: the focus is on the need to build more houses, which must be “truly affordable”. And not only that, they must be the kind of homes “that people can be proud of”.

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