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A new report by the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community, looking at ways of tackling the housing crisis, has been welcomed by the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Julian Henderson. 

The report – entitled ‘Coming Home’ – was released at the weekend. It suggests that a collective effort at all levels of society including central government, local authorities, landowners and property developers as well as the Church is needed to help tackle an acute shortage of truly affordable homes.  

The Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, has also responded to the report in his capacity as Chair of The Church of England’s Estates Evangelism Task Group.

‘Coming Home’ features a number of case studies, including one from Blackburn Diocese on the work of St Silas Church, near Blackburn town centre, alongside Nightsafe (a local homeless charity) to create suitable accommodation for homeless young people. This page on our Diocesan website tells the full story of the project. Work was turbocharged by intervention from the BBC’s Children in Need and DIY SOS programmes in 2019. 

The Blackburn case study is used in the ‘Coming Home’ report to illustrate the importance of sharing existing facilities where possible to do so and churches working together with other agencies to create something that benefits the local community in fresh new ways.  

Affirming the work of Rev Sheelagh Aston and her congregation at St Silas and Jan Larkin, Chief Executive of Nightsafe and her team, Bishop Julian said today: “I am delighted the Archbishops have chosen to spotlight this initiative in this important report. We saw amazing commitment from the local community: from experienced tradespeople to amateur DIYers! 

“What St Silas and Nightsafe achieved in 2019 in two short weeks working with the BBC was amazing and uplifting. 

“And with our Diocesan Vision 2026 seeking to create ‘Healthy Churches Transforming Communities’ what better embodiment of that aim? Partnership and community service, inspired by God to transform the lives of young people in need.” 

Commenting on the wider report, Bishop Julian added: “’Coming Home’ makes a series of wide-ranging recommendations with implications for both national and church policy; including exploring what contribution The Church of England as a whole can make to deliver more affordable homes in the future.  

“Like other Dioceses around the country we will be reviewing the content of the report here with interest now it is published. I welcome the appointment of my episcopal colleague, Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, as the new Bishop for Housing. She will lead an expert team providing direction for future initiatives and supporting Dioceses and parishes.” 

On the back of the new report The Archbishop of Canterbury will soon ask the General Synod (the church’s national assembly) to confirm that meeting housing need is an integral part of the mission of The Church of England.  

The new report also has a particular resonance for Bishop Philip North in his role with the Estates Evangelism Task Group.   

The Bishop moved the motion in a debate at General Synod, two years ago this month, that concluded with the Church making a renewed commitment to support existing estates churches and to plant new churches on significant social housing estates across the country.  

Bishop Philip said: “We can and should be able to work together across political, religious, cultural and economic lines to create a new future for housing standards across the country. We need to do this to address the huge injustices that exist.  

“I welcome a report that seeks to drive the debate forward and, importantly, encourages action on many fronts to address the challenges we face. The church has a unique role to play, with its ongoing commitment to being a presence in EVERY community. 

“More affordable, decent housing across the country would have a transformative effect … creating stronger and more vibrant communities and giving every person who lives in those communities the self-respect they deserve.”