Peers debating a Church of England report into tackling the housing crisis have widely backed its calls for action but warned the church’s leader Justin Welby that controlling private rented sector rents would reduce supply as landlords exited the sector.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community report Coming Home urges a review of the social security system, which Justin Welby said forced families to choose between paying rent and eating.
The report also suggests that affordability of homes needs to be pegged to income levels not market rates, and that there should be longer security of tenures and more duty of care on landlords.
During the Grand Committee debate, he told peers: “The mess we find ourselves in is more than 40 years in the making. Building more houses won’t solve the problem. We recommend a 20-year strategy for housing with focus on those in most need.”
However, Lord Lilley said he was puzzled by this view, and added: “The only way to alleviate shortage is to build more homes. High rents are symptoms of the shortage, not its cause.
“Reducing rents below the market clearing level won’t create more dwellings – it will reduce the supply of rented accommodation.”
Lord Birt (pictured) said the reasons for the sorry state of the UK’s housing were too easy to see: “Demand has grown as our population has expanded by 10 million over last 20 years. We must not trespass any further onto precious green spaces – we need a coherent holistic long-term framework of real ambition which grapples with the stubborn mix of challenges.”
Many peers called for better social housing as a solution. The Archbishop of York added: “We need to reset our compass. Behind the homeless are hidden homeless in temporary accommodation and those in unsatisfactory housing. The report is about finding political will to tackle the problem with joined up solutions.”
The Church of England has recently appointed a bishop for housing who will work with developers and housing associations to tackle the housing crisis. Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the next Bishop of Chelmsford, will sit in the House of Lords and advocate on issues of housing justice.