Spurred by a call from the Church of England to help address Britain’s growing homeless crisis, a diocese of the church plans to build 300 new affordable homes on their own disused land over the next two years.
The Diocese of Chelmsford, which includes Essex and the boroughs of East London, is set to “play a key role in shaping new communities … emphasizing the importance of true affordability and inclusivity,” according to the bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Guli Francis-Dehqani, who is also the Church of England Bishop for Housing.
“This isn’t about selling off church land,” Francis-Dehqani wrote in a March 14 blog on the Church of England website. “By retaining ownership where possible, we can more actively help to ensure high quality, eco-friendly homes for those who need them most.”
In a February 2021 report, “Coming Home: Tackling the Housing Crisis Together,” the Church of England highlighted the need for more affordable housing as well as a need by the church to lead by example. While it is important to build more houses generally, they are insufficient in tackling the country’s affordable housing shortage, the report said.
To “address the prolonged housing issues this country continues to face,” the report identified a need to construct “more truly affordable homes and stronger communities that people can be proud of and where they can feel safe and welcome, put down roots and flourish.”
In Gloucester, the Church of England plans to turn a redundant church site into homes for the homeless, Francis-Dehqani noted. Called “living pads” these are modular homes being built on the outskirts of the city for former prisoners and others in challenging circumstances in close cooperation with the Gloucester diocese, whose bishop is also the Anglican bishop for prisons in England and Wales.
In addition, the Church of England is forming a team on the national level with land development experience and expertise whose role will be to support dioceses and parishes that want to join the effort to address the country’s housing crisis.
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