Churches put faith and resources into affordable housing

Churches put faith and resources into affordable housing

By staff writers
12 Feb 2009

A new website called 'Faith in Affordable Housing' is being launched today at Church House Westminster, headquarters of the Church of England.

Under the cooperative banner of churches' campaign Housing Justice, it offers practical and technical information to help local churches of all traditions offer their land or property for housing aimed at those in social and economic need.

Converting existing church buildings into affordable housing provides a win-win situation, argues the website.

Not only does it provide a much needed resource for the local community but also brings in an often urgently needed revenue stream to the church.

The guide presents nine case studies from different Christian denominations in both urban and rural areas of England.

One example is St James's Church Centre in Northumberland (United Reformed Church). It was in desperate need of renovation. Now it hosts nine affordable homes plus a thoroughly modernised century church, including facilities that meet the needs of diverse groups within the town.

The worship area is also adaptable and can be used for conferences and concerts.

Meanwhile at St Paul's in Plymouth (Church of England), the old church and hall was demolished and a new 40-flat extra care scheme for older people built in its place.

A new community building, complete with a dedicated smaller worship space for the church to use, was built on the site of the local library. In turn a new library was developed as part of the extra care building.

The supply of affordable housing needs to be increased dramatically, say the churches. Faith in Affordable Housing offers ways in which churches ­ across all denominations ­ can contribute to the supply, as well as generating income.

Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of Housing Justice, said: "I am delighted to commend this initiative to all faith communities who are seeking to respond to the needs of the homeless or poorly housed. In both urban and rural areas there is evidence of spiralling hardship which can lead to the loss of a basic requisite of human dignity ­ shelter."

Faith in Affordable Housing sas: "Although churches often support the principle of the redevelopment of church land and property for social housing, many are concerned about meeting other objectives ­ they have staff to pay, buildings to maintain and a mission to fulfil. Yet there is great potential for churches to use surplus assets for those in housing need and still fulfil these aims.

"This guide offers the ideas, information and inspiration to help churches provide affordable housing wherever possible", said James Derounian from the University of Gloucestershire.

To see Faith in Affordable Housing visit: www.fiah.org.uk

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