Church of England faces embarrassment over homes sale

Church of England faces embarrassment over homes sale

By staff writers
19 Apr 2006

Church of England faces embarrassment over homes sale

-19/04/06

The Church of England is facing embarrassment today after it was reported that a company to which it sold social housing just a month ago - with public reassurances about its long-term future - may sell almost half the properties.

The Church Commissioners which manage the Church of England's property portfolio controversially sold 976 homes on Octavia Hill estates in London in March, to the company Grainger GenInvest.

The sale went ahead despite claims by MPs, Christian campaigners and the Mayor of London that those who lived there could face huge rent rises or even lose their homes.

The claims were denied by the Church Commissioners, and the Church of England defended its decision, insisting that the sale was "a good outcome for tenants".

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The Church of England said that the new owners - Genesis Housing Group and The Grainger Trust - would be "in a better place to invest in the properties for the long term."

BBC London News however has today reported that the consortium is to sell 400 of the homes in order to cover its costs, over the next 10 years.

The announcement, just a month after their sale to Grainger GenInvest, will be proof for many that tenants and campaigners were justified in their claims and fears.

Many of the estimated 1,100 tenants who live in social housing on the estates in Waterloo, Winchester Park, Vauxhall, Pimlico and Walworth, include key workers such as ambulance staff and teachers.

The Bishop of Worcester was amongst those who slammed the Church of England's original decision saying that it had been reached by the Church Commissioners for "primarily financial reasons".

He said he also believed the decision had effectively destroyed the missionary work of the Church in the local community.

The BBC's flagship consumer affairs programme 'Watchdog' even investigated the sale, asking the Secretary to the Church Commissioners live on prime time television what Jesus would make of the decision.

In a statement today the Church of England reiterated its belief that the sale of the social housing was the right thing to do.

"The Church Commissioners believe that the sale of the Octavia Hill properties to the Grainger GenInvest is a good outcome for tenants, as the new owners are likely to be in a better place to invest in the properties for the long term.

"The Commissioners have a duty to contribute towards funding the clergy and the good work of the Church. We believe that we have fulfilled this duty, and we have done so in a way that ensures security and investment for the future of the estates" the Church's statement said.

However, in a statement given to Ekklesia, Tom McGregor, Managing Director of Pathmeads Housing Association, managing agent for Grainger GenInvest, said that homes may indeed be sold in the future, although their plans had not yet been finalised. But he also insisted that their main priority was to "safeguard the current tenancies".

"The estate investment programme for the properties purchased in March 2006 has not yet been finalised" he said.

"It is possible that a very small number of properties that naturally fall vacant may be sold at some time in the future. In addition, the possibility of setting up a shared ownership scheme is being investigated."

"We have been and will continue to be transparent with residents on issues relating to their homes, he said."

The news of the possible sale of 400 homes came from a letter sent out by Tom McGregor following a meeting with MPs to discuss the Octavia Hill properties.

The Properties that were sold:

Waterloo Estate

The estate lies south of The Cut just by the Old Vic Theatre at the back of Waterloo station. The properties, built in the 1900s, are in a conservation area and comprise 159 homes as flats and cottages.

Middleton House, Pimlico

Middleton House lies off Causton Street and comprises 32 one, two and three bed flats in two four-storey apartment blocks.

Vauxhall Estate

The Vauxhall estate is situated off Wandsworth Road and Wilcox Road and comprises 230 flats in eight apartment blocks, as well as a parade of 23 shops. The older buildings date back to the 1930s.

Winchester Park

The Winchester Park estate lies between Union Street and Pepper Street, SE1, beside the site of the former All Hallows Church, and comprises 93 flats in seven interlinked blocks, built in the 1930s.

Walworth Estate

The Walworth estate lies off Liverpool Grove in the SE17 area. It comprises 618 residential properties, being a variety of two and three storey terraced houses and apartments built at the beginning of the last century. The estate also includes a doctorsí surgery and a corner shop.

The Church of England is facing embarrassment today after it was reported that a company to which it sold social housing just a month ago - with public reassurances about its long-term future - may sell almost half the properties.

The Church Commissioners which manage the Church of England's property portfolio controversially sold 976 homes on Octavia Hill estates in London in March, to the company Grainger GenInvest.

The sale went ahead despite claims by MPs, Christian campaigners and the Mayor of London that those who lived there could face huge rent rises or even lose their homes.

The claims were denied by the Church Commissioners, and the Church of England defended its decision, insisting that the sale was "a good outcome for tenants".

Related Articles

The Church of England said that the new owners - Genesis Housing Group and The Grainger Trust - would be "in a better place to invest in the properties for the long term."

BBC London News however has today reported that the consortium is to sell 400 of the homes in order to cover its costs, over the next 10 years.

The announcement, just a month after their sale to Grainger GenInvest, will be proof for many that tenants and campaigners were justified in their claims and fears.

Many of the estimated 1,100 tenants who live in social housing on the estates in Waterloo, Winchester Park, Vauxhall, Pimlico and Walworth, include key workers such as ambulance staff and teachers.

The Bishop of Worcester was amongst those who slammed the Church of England's original decision saying that it had been reached by the Church Commissioners for "primarily financial reasons".

He said he also believed the decision had effectively destroyed the missionary work of the Church in the local community.

The BBC's flagship consumer affairs programme 'Watchdog' even investigated the sale, asking the Secretary to the Church Commissioners live on prime time television what Jesus would make of the decision.

In a statement today the Church of England reiterated its belief that the sale of the social housing was the right thing to do.

"The Church Commissioners believe that the sale of the Octavia Hill properties to the Grainger GenInvest is a good outcome for tenants, as the new owners are likely to be in a better place to invest in the properties for the long term.

"The Commissioners have a duty to contribute towards funding the clergy and the good work of the Church. We believe that we have fulfilled this duty, and we have done so in a way that ensures security and investment for the future of the estates" the Church's statement said.

However, in a statement given to Ekklesia, Tom McGregor, Managing Director of Pathmeads Housing Association, managing agent for Grainger GenInvest, said that homes may indeed be sold in the future, although their plans had not yet been finalised. But he also insisted that their main priority was to "safeguard the current tenancies".

"The estate investment programme for the properties purchased in March 2006 has not yet been finalised" he said.

"It is possible that a very small number of properties that naturally fall vacant may be sold at some time in the future. In addition, the possibility of setting up a shared ownership scheme is being investigated."

"We have been and will continue to be transparent with residents on issues relating to their homes, he said."

The news of the possible sale of 400 homes came from a letter sent out by Tom McGregor following a meeting with MPs to discuss the Octavia Hill properties.

The Properties that were sold:

Waterloo Estate

The estate lies south of The Cut just by the Old Vic Theatre at the back of Waterloo station. The properties, built in the 1900s, are in a conservation area and comprise 159 homes as flats and cottages.

Middleton House, Pimlico

Middleton House lies off Causton Street and comprises 32 one, two and three bed flats in two four-storey apartment blocks.

Vauxhall Estate

The Vauxhall estate is situated off Wandsworth Road and Wilcox Road and comprises 230 flats in eight apartment blocks, as well as a parade of 23 shops. The older buildings date back to the 1930s.

Winchester Park

The Winchester Park estate lies between Union Street and Pepper Street, SE1, beside the site of the former All Hallows Church, and comprises 93 flats in seven interlinked blocks, built in the 1930s.

Walworth Estate

The Walworth estate lies off Liverpool Grove in the SE17 area. It comprises 618 residential properties, being a variety of two and three storey terraced houses and apartments built at the beginning of the last century. The estate also includes a doctorsí surgery and a corner shop.

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