More than 80 clergy and church representatives are joining together to attack the deepening crisis of affordable housing in London.
Churches are mobilising because families are increasingly being priced out their homes in London, and with welfare reforms on the way, the situation can only get worse.
The platform for action is an emergency meeting “The Housing Crisis in London: mobilising the church” being held today on World Homeless Day (Wednesday 10 October).
The event is being organised by Housing Justice, the London Churches Group for Social Action and the Joint Public Issues Team of the major Free Churches in Britain.
It brings together church leaders of all denominations, poverty and justice experts and activists, and Christians working in housing and homelessness.
Terry Drummond CA, of the London Churches Group for Social Action and chair of the event explained: “We are joining together because the shortage of affordable housing in London is now at crisis point, and because it impacts most heavily on the poorest in society. The underlying causes must be addressed, and responses found in both practical and policy terms.”
Policy responses will be identified through plenary speakers and workshops. Contributors include Kate Barker CBE, author of The Barker Review, who will speak on Financial Policy, and Professor Steve Wilcox of York University Centre for Housing Policy, on Housing Supply.
There will be a strong emphasis on the deepening poverty faced by struggling families, led by Paul Morrison of the Methodist/Joint Public Issues Team. Alison Gelder of Housing Justice will set out the arguments for Fair Rents as an alternative to Benefits Caps.
As well as identifying the problems the meeting will put forward practical solutions to which the churches nationally will be encouraged to sign up.
Some of the key issues to be addressed at the conference are:
· Families losing their homes and being forced out of London
· Young people unable to afford to leave home
· Caps to Local Housing Allowance severely reduce the amount of private rented accommodation available, especially for families and young people
· Wealth accumulated from price inflation on first homes is not subject to capital gains tax, increasing income inequality
· Luxury houses and flats being developed by property speculators, to be bought and left empty by wealthy investors for minimal running costs and no Council Tax
· Housing is now commonly identified as a “private” or “financial” matter.
Alison Gelder recalled the words of Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the first president of Housing Justice: “A united Christian response will highlight the importance of the home as a basic necessity for all human beings. To have somewhere we call home is a fundamental part of our human dignity. To be deprived of such a basic necessity is to feel less than human”
James North of the Joint Public Issues Team said: “The theological imperative is for churches and individual Christians to be good news for the poor. We have rallied to this call before and now is the time to do it again.”
* Housing Justice is the national voice of Christian action to prevent homelessness and bad housing. www.housingjustice.org.uk
* London Churches Group for Social Action is an ecumenical Christian body established in 1983 to work on behalf of the Church leadership in London on civic and social policy issues. Membership comprises senior social responsibility and justice and peace officers from the churches and related organisations. The LCGSA is the standing social concerns group for the London Church Leaders representing the Baptist Union, Black-majority, Church of England, Catholic, Evangelical Alliance, Methodist, Orthodox, Salvation Army and United Reformed Churches. www.londonchurchesgroup.org.uk
The Joint Public Issues Team, created in September 2006, combines the expertise of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in the area of public issues. It also cooperates with the Quakers in Britain. www.jointpublicissues.org.uk
* Background papers:
· Busting the Myths - an alternative manifesto for housing (July 2012) Alison Gelder, Housing Justice http://bit.ly/K7qwx1
· More than Bricks and Mortar? Responding to the housing crisis – theologically, morally, practically and politically (June2012) Frank Kantor and James North, Joint Public Issues Team http://bit.ly/Rd9wdU
· The Housing Crisis in London (September 2011) Peter Ambrose and Ben Jenkins, The Pro-housing Alliance http://bit.ly/O8vywq
· The Housing Report (May 2012) Chartered Institute of Housing, National Housing Federation, Shelter http://bit.ly/L2fGbH