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Church of England launches commission to address housing crisis

The Church of England has launched its own commission to investigate the role it can play in tackling the UK’s housing crisis.

The Commission on Housing, Church and Community, launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Tuesday (April 9), will bring together academics, experts and theologians over the next 18 months to see how it can contribute to the national housing debate.

The commission will explore a Christian perspective on housing policy and will particularly focus on how the church can provide good homes and promote strong communities.

Welby said: ‘Through food banks, night shelters and many other projects, the Church seeks to bind communities together with bonds of friendship, compassion and mutual support. This teaches us that any way forward must involve building communities, not just houses.

‘The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community will consider what else we could and should be doing, as a church and as a nation.

‘In doing so, I hope it might help reclaim the very purpose of housing – as the basis for community, and a foundation for human flourishing.’

The commission will be led by the social housing expert Charlie Arbuthnot and the Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin, an academic theologian heavily involved in supporting residents after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The commission’s other members include representatives from the Department of Work and Pensions and the National Estate Churches Network, the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Lees, and a housing economics expert from the London School of Economics.

The launch of the commission comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury published a book last year, Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, which argued for housing’s central role in creating community, equality and justice.

‘Building Communities’, an independent report published at the launch which looks at seven case studies of church-linked housing projects across different regions of England, will provide the basis for the commission’s early considerations.

Arbuthnot, chair of the commission, said that the commission hopes to bring a ‘distinctive’ Christian contribution to the housing discussion by proposing action the Church can take at local, regional and national levels.

Charlie Arbuthnot, chair of the Commission, said: ‘We need to build good homes and supportive communities, with the provision of spaces for people to meet, share and celebrate together.

‘We hope to support and inspire all sections of society including public, private and voluntary organisations that share this vision.’

The commission will now meet regularly to explore key issues relating to housing, church and community, drawing on people with direct experience of homelessness and insecure housing.

The commission will also receive evidence from churches and dioceses which have first-hand experience of addressing housing issues.

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