Using church assets for affordable housing
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USING CHURCH ASSETS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Alastair Murray Housing Justice. How did FiAH evolve?. Ecumenical research group Archbishops’ Commission on Rural Areas (1990) Churches National Housing Coalition (1994) Affordable Rural Housing Commission (2006)

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Using church assets for affordable housing


Alastair Murray

Housing Justice

How did fiah evolve

How did FiAH evolve?

Ecumenical research group

  • Archbishops’ Commission on Rural Areas (1990)

  • Churches National Housing Coalition (1994)

  • Affordable Rural Housing Commission (2006)

  • Scottish Churches Housing Action (2006)

  • Building and Social Housing Foundation (2007)

Fiah guide purpose

FiAH guide purpose

Demonstrate practical Christian concern

Help and advice for churches including good practice guidelines

Provide solutions to some problems faced by churches

Meets both social and pragmatic objectives

Encourage partnership opportunities



Survey to property personnel of main Christian denominations (March 2008)

12 C of E dioceses that had sold or leased land since 1 Jan 2000 solely for affordable housing

4 C of E dioceses, 2 Methodist churches and a United Reformed church that had converted buildings into AH

Site visits

Desktop research of technical info

Correspondence with Charity Commission

Survey obstacles to development

Survey – obstacles to development

Base for this question: 26 respondents (19 C of E)

Fiah guide contents

FiAH guide contents

PREPARING THE GROUND – What is AH and why is it needed, govt response, what churches can do, charity law

FOUNDATIONAL ISSUES – Policies relating to ownership, how property can be redeveloped (e.g. auditing, churchyards, listed buildings)

BRICKS & MORTAR – Organisations that can help

LETTING IN THE LIGHT – Determining viability, assessing need, planning considerations, valuing sites, financing schemes, tenure and occupancy

FRIENDS NEARBY – Contact info

GOOD NEIGHBOURS – Case studies

PRACTICAL RESOURCES (Appendices) – Health check form, checklist for action, glossary

What can churches do


Need to fund mission/staff but also spiritual duty to use resources for those in need. Encourage a wider long-term view (including community interest & alternatives to selling outright)

Balance between social objective of valuing everyone and pragmatic objective of complying with charity law and maximising investment returns to keep the ministry running

Charity law


  • Section 36 of the Charities Act (1993) – requires trustees to achieve the best terms

  • reasonably obtainable on disposal or, where the disposal is intended to further the objects

  • of the charity, that the disposal is expedient in the terms of the charity.

  • Different views – often means disposal at low cost limited to Exception Sites.

  • Confirmation – doctrine of Christianity enables the ‘best value’ test to be passed. Written

  • objectives do not need to provide specifically for those in housing need. If a disposal is

  • furthering a charity’s purposes, then it can be made at less than best price.

    • ‘Many people would understand that part of the doctrine of Christianity

    • is the assistance of poor and needy people and therefore activities

    • towards those ends could be seen as a means of advancing Christianity.’

Geographical focus east of england

Geographical focus: East of England

  • Note: FiAH project also responds (within capacity) to approaches from other parts of the country

  • Population 2nd fastest growing in any region, 25% increase by 2013

  • Average HP in 2010 = 10 x median regional income

  • Lack of church examples

  • Links with previous Bishop of Lynn

Case study 1 exeter diocese plymouth

Case Study 1 – Exeter Diocese (Plymouth)

Average Plymouth income = £23K, average house price = £168K (house price ratio almost 8 times average income)

Review of diocesan assets initiated by previous Bishop of Plymouth, Rt. Revd John Garton

A partnership was formed and charter drawn up to address large churches and need for AH

Arrangement with Sarsen HA exchanging old churches on 125 yr lease for newer, smaller ones, often with community space

Sarsen paid the diocese’s legal and design fees

St paul s church torridge way efford 2007 photo revd stephen payne

Post-war garden suburb

Efford Ward - one of the 20% most deprived in England and Wales

Community Forum obtained funding from SWRDA to create sustainable neighbourhood

St Paul’s Church, Torridge Way, Efford (2007)Photo: Revd Stephen Payne

St paul s church photo revd stephen payne

Demolished old church & hall and developed a new community building with a dedicated smaller space for a church

The old church was converted into a 40-flat Extra Care scheme

New church was built on old library site. New library built as part of Extra Care scheme

St Paul’s ChurchPhoto: Revd Stephen Payne

St barnabas church once the old church hall 2005

  • St Barnabas 32-bed Extra Care home opened on the old church site in 2005

  • The money the diocese received from the scheme funded the conversion of the church hall into a new worship area. It has also leased part of the hall to the PCT

St Barnabas Church – once the old church hall (2005)

St barnabas court extra care home 2005

St Barnabas Court Extra Care Home (2005)

Case study 2 ambleside ecumenical parish centre

Case Study 2 - Ambleside Ecumenical Parish Centre

South Lakes district - 3,500 holiday homes / 3,500 on its housing needs register (100 in Ambleside)

Houses around 11 times average income

Scheme initiated by Methodist minister

Provided capital to join with nearby Anglican church to build an ecumenical worship and community centre

Old ambleside methodist church 2006

  • Old church and hall are now 15 AH units (4 one-bed, 11 two-bed)

  • Many original external features retained, including stained-glass windows

  • Occupancy restricted through Section 106

Old Ambleside Methodist Church (2006)

Hallway to flats in old methodist church

  • Interior and exterior of the church have been sympathetically converted

Hallway to flats in old Methodist Church

New ecumenical ambleside parish centre 2006

New ecumenical Ambleside Parish Centre (2006)

Entrance to the new ecumenical ambleside parish centre

  • Additional rental income to both churches through renting community space

  • Congregations have grown

Entrance to the new ecumenical Ambleside Parish Centre

What next for fiah

What next for FiAH?

New Localism agenda – funding for affordable housing?

Tudor Trust grant funds staff time/resources for a 3 year programme – help for projects in early stages

Role of regional Housing Associations - other partners

Identify and publicise further case studies (egFishergate Baptist Church, Preston)

Develop comprehensive national database

Events, Conferences e.g. Today!

Any questions

Any questions?

Housing Justice

22-25 Finsbury Square,

London EC2A 1DX

Alastair Murray

020 7920 6600

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