The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a new commission to look at the housing crisis and the Church’s role in building stronger communities across the country.
Chaired by Charlie Arbuthnot, an expert in the financing of social housing, and the Bishop of Kensington, Graham Tomlin, who has been active in efforts to support residents following the Grenfell Tower disaster, the group will begin to ask questions about the use of Church land, affordable housing and government policy.
Launched at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, the Commission is made up of experts in the area of housing and community including Sir Robert John Devereux a former permanent secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions and Marvin Rees the Mayor of Bristol.
Those gathered at the launch were promised a “thoughtful, imaginative and radical” look at issue as well being told the Commission is keen to listen to stories of those working on the ground.
Explaining the importance of its work, Justin Welby, said: “Britain’s housing crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country – and it is hitting the poorest the hardest. While there is already significant work being done to find solutions, the Church has something unique to contribute.
“Up and down the country we are living out our faith in Jesus Christ by loving and serving those around us. Through food banks, night shelters and many other projects, the Church seeks to bind communities together with bonds of friendship, compassion and mutual support. This teaches us that any way forward must involve building communities, not just houses.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community will consider what else we could and should be doing, as a Church and as a nation. In doing so, I hope it might help reclaim the very purpose of housing – as the basis for community, and a foundation for human flourishing.”
The Archbishop acknowledged the housing crisis isn’t a new issue. He also suggested it was a growing problem for clergy who retire and move out of church owned homes.
Speaking to Premier at the launch, Graham Tomlin explained why the Church wants to address what some would describe as a political issue.
He said: “The church is called to do justice and to bear witness of the kingdom of God and an important part of that is looking at the issues that particularly effect poorer people in our society.
“Housing is one of those issues. One of our clergy said to me the other day, that most of the postural issues he deals with have some sort of housing connection to it, the housing crisis affects poorer people more than others.
“One of the ways in which we bear witness to the kingdom of God, this vision of the way God wanted the world to be, is by helping people imagine what that might be. And what we’re trying to do is to try to see what that might look like, in the realm of housing in our society.”
The Commission is expected to gather evidence over the next 18 months before producing a report.
Charlie Arbuthnot spoke to Premier at the launch and explained what he was hoping to achieve.
He said: “I think probably top of my list would be that we’ve done something that’s enabled really healthy community across the nation.
“We’ve got dislocated communities and it would be great if we could deal with that.”