Tenants to picket Archbishop of Canterbury over homes sale

Tenants to picket Archbishop of Canterbury over homes sale

By staff writers
13 Jan 2006

Tenants to picket Archbishop of Canterbury over homes sale

-13/01/06

Residents from three housing estates in South London are to picket the Archbishop of Canterbury in protest against the planned sale of their homes.

The tenants are from three Octavia Hill estates whose homes are being sold by the Church Commissioners of the Church of England, one of whom is Dr Rowan Williams.

They now say they are going demonstrate outside his place of residence - Lambeth Palace - in protest.

For the past three months the tenants who live in the Octavia Hill properties based in Walworth, Waterloo, and Vauxhall have been in contention with the Church Commissioners about the proposed sale of their homes to a commercial landlord.

Their homes are part of a legacy held in trust by the Church Commissioners, which was based on the pioneering work of Octavia Hill a 19th Century Evangelical social philanthropist and social reformer who sought to ensure that working people could possess affordable housing in London.

The Church Commissioners are seeking to sell this property to the highest bidder in the commercial housing sector say campaigners, rather than to social registered landlords who will provide affordable rents for the existing tenants and for future key workers.

The Commissioners claim that Charity law requires them to make the highest profit from their assets; however their interpretation of charity Law guidance has been vehemently challenged by residents and supporters alike.

If the Church Commissioners sell these remaining 1100 properties to commercial landlords, rents will be raised to unaffordable levels for the large proportion of tenants on assured or assured shorthold tenancies, say campaigners including church groups.

Earlier last year the Church Commissioners sold 455 of the Octavia Hill properties in north London, Maida Vale and Waterloo, to a joint Commercial and social landlord venture, making £70million on the sale.

Since taking over these properties the new landlords have abolished Key Worker property lets, (which had been agreed by the Church Commissioners in 2001) and will be letting all new flats at full market rates.

The future rent of existing tenants in these sold properties is still uncertain.

The residents have had the full and active support of MPs Kate Hoey and Harriet Harmen.

However the Archbishop of Canterbury has reportedly distanced himself from the crisis, his representatives stating that he does not normally involve himself with the decisions of the Church Commissioners.

He is himself however one of the 33 Commissioners.

It comes at a time when the Commissioners are making a 13.6 per cent annual return on their investments and £100 million a year from property sales.
They manage assets of over £4 billion.

The Anglican diocese of Southwark challenged the Church Commissioners about the sale at a synod meeting in November 2005. They have also set a motion for National Synod to discuss the matter in February but it has only attracted a meager 32 signatures from Deanery Synod members - taken by campaigners as a lack of concern from the wider Church of England about the crisis.

For some the Church of England's stance will be surprising. The Church in England has a history of denouncing social and economic injustice.
The controversial 'Faith in the City' report in 1985 stated: "church members throughout the country have a responsibility to their brothers and sisters to ensure that each of them can enjoy a decent home".

The campaign against the property sales is being aided by Housing Justice - a church group created from a merger of CHAS (Catholic Housing Aid Society) and CNHC (Churchesí National Housing Coalition).

They say that the Church of England should practice what it preaches.

A spokesperson for Housing Justice, which provides a national voice of Christian action in the field of housing - and is active in more than 35 communities around the country, said: "Twenty years ago last month, the publication of Faith in the City highlighted housing as a dominant theme of the evidence given to the Archbishop's Commission on Urban Policy Areas.

"It recorded with pride the Church of England's long tradition of being both a provider of homes for the poorer sections of society and an agitator for reform in the conditions in which the poor were housed.

"The commission recommended that Church involvement in housing should be developed in the future through non-profit-making housing associations.

"It would be a grave betrayal of the report if desperately-needed social housing was lost from an area of major housing shortage."

The Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners will meet in the next few weeks to determine the fate of the properties.

The demonstration outside the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Lambeth Palace) will take place on Wednesday 18th January from 5.30pm to 7.30pm

Residents from three housing estates in South London are to picket the Archbishop of Canterbury in protest against the planned sale of their homes.

The tenants are from three Octavia Hill estates whose homes are being sold by the Church Commissioners of the Church of England, one of whom is Dr Rowan Williams.

They now say they are going demonstrate outside his place of residence - Lambeth Palace - in protest.

For the past three months the tenants who live in the Octavia Hill properties based in Walworth, Waterloo, and Vauxhall have been in contention with the Church Commissioners about the proposed sale of their homes to a commercial landlord.

Their homes are part of a legacy held in trust by the Church Commissioners, which was based on the pioneering work of Octavia Hill a 19th Century Evangelical social philanthropist and social reformer who sought to ensure that working people could possess affordable housing in London.

The Church Commissioners are seeking to sell this property to the highest bidder in the commercial housing sector say campaigners, rather than to social registered landlords who will provide affordable rents for the existing tenants and for future key workers.

The Commissioners claim that Charity law requires them to make the highest profit from their assets; however their interpretation of charity Law guidance has been vehemently challenged by residents and supporters alike.

If the Church Commissioners sell these remaining 1100 properties to commercial landlords, rents will be raised to unaffordable levels for the large proportion of tenants on assured or assured shorthold tenancies, say campaigners including church groups.

Earlier last year the Church Commissioners sold 455 of the Octavia Hill properties in north London, Maida Vale and Waterloo, to a joint Commercial and social landlord venture, making £70million on the sale.

Since taking over these properties the new landlords have abolished Key Worker property lets, (which had been agreed by the Church Commissioners in 2001) and will be letting all new flats at full market rates.

The future rent of existing tenants in these sold properties is still uncertain.

The residents have had the full and active support of MPs Kate Hoey and Harriet Harmen.

However the Archbishop of Canterbury has reportedly distanced himself from the crisis, his representatives stating that he does not normally involve himself with the decisions of the Church Commissioners.

He is himself however one of the 33 Commissioners.

It comes at a time when the Commissioners are making a 13.6 per cent annual return on their investments and £100 million a year from property sales.
They manage assets of over £4 billion.

The Anglican diocese of Southwark challenged the Church Commissioners about the sale at a synod meeting in November 2005. They have also set a motion for National Synod to discuss the matter in February but it has only attracted a meager 32 signatures from Deanery Synod members - taken by campaigners as a lack of concern from the wider Church of England about the crisis.

For some the Church of England's stance will be surprising. The Church in England has a history of denouncing social and economic injustice.
The controversial 'Faith in the City' report in 1985 stated: "church members throughout the country have a responsibility to their brothers and sisters to ensure that each of them can enjoy a decent home".

The campaign against the property sales is being aided by Housing Justice - a church group created from a merger of CHAS (Catholic Housing Aid Society) and CNHC (Churches' National Housing Coalition).

They say that the Church of England should practice what it preaches.

A spokesperson for Housing Justice, which provides a national voice of Christian action in the field of housing - and is active in more than 35 communities around the country, said: "Twenty years ago last month, the publication of Faith in the City highlighted housing as a dominant theme of the evidence given to the Archbishop's Commission on Urban Policy Areas.

"It recorded with pride the Church of England's long tradition of being both a provider of homes for the poorer sections of society and an agitator for reform in the conditions in which the poor were housed.

"The commission recommended that Church involvement in housing should be developed in the future through non-profit-making housing associations.

"It would be a grave betrayal of the report if desperately-needed social housing was lost from an area of major housing shortage."

The Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners will meet in the next few weeks to determine the fate of the properties.

The demonstration outside the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Lambeth Palace) will take place on Wednesday 18th January from 5.30pm to 7.30pm

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