Stephen has hosted a study visit to Newham for the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community. The visit was part of an 18-month project commissioned by Archbishop Justin Welby which aims to understand the nature of the housing crisis across the country, highlight areas of action for the Church of England and make policy recommendations for government.
Four of the Commissioners – Chair of the Commission Charlie Arbuthnot; former Permanent Secretary of DWP Sir Robert Devereux; parish vicar and vice-chair of the National Estate Churches Network Revd Lynne Cullens; and theologian Stephen Backhouse – took part in the visit.
The Commissioners visited individuals experiencing serious housing issues including overcrowding, damp and rat infestations, and the prospect of eviction in the private rented sector. They took part in a roundtable convened by Stephen with grassroots groups, churches and charities working on housing and homelessness across the borough. Finally, they visited the Didsbury Centre building site being developed by the council-owned Red Door Ventures, and met with Councillor John Gray, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, and Councillor Shaban Mohammed, Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing, about their plans to address the borough’s challenges.
Stephen said: “Newham is at the very sharp end of London’s housing crisis, and housing issues make up an enormous part of my constituency caseload. I was glad to be able to host the Commission to highlight those realities, as well as the enormous hope, innovation and potential in our borough. I am hopeful about the Commission’s efforts to re-imagine housing policy towards building homes and well-functioning communities, and look forward to their eventual report.”
Chair of the Commission Charlie Arbuthnot commented: ‘“As a Commission we are determined to get behind the statistics and theories to see the reality of the housing crisis first-hand and to do all we can to find solutions. In Newham, we were deeply concerned to see the cramped and damp flats families we met were living in. We were also so encouraged to hear from churches and community groups who shared the grassroots solutions they are working towards, as well as hearing about what the Council and developers are doing at a policy level.”
Newham is ranked as England’s number one homelessness hotspot, with at least one in every 24 people in housing insecurity - this includes over 4200 households in temporary accommodation. Newham has over 27,000 people on its social housing waiting list.
The Commission is due to report in Autumn 2020.