Churches Together in Keswick was featured in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Housing Commission recent report entitled Coming Home: tackling the housing crisis together.
CTE’s Principal Officer for Evangelism and Mission, Rev Dr Ben Aldous, spoke to Bill Bewley, chair of Keswick Community Housing Trust and a member of Quaker Housing Trust about the way CT groups have amazing opportunities to bless their communities in concrete ways…
When the Commission came to Cumbria for their visit Bill was a little surprised when he heard there was a committee looking into the spiritual basis for affordable housing. For Bill the theology of providing adequate housing is very simple. Jesus embodied it when he said we should love our neighbour as ourselves. Bill believes it is a basic human right that we should all have a proper place to live. It is a basic given of social justice that we should all work very hard to help people to live and work in the community and have access to good quality affordable housing.
Bill happily encourages everyone to read the report, not just for their story but for the many gems within its pages. One of the issues they experienced was that on several occasions, had it not been for local vicar intervening on their behalf, the Diocese Trustees might have made it impossible for the Trust to build on Church land.
Since 2009, Bill as Chair of KCHT has helped see a number of new initiatives come into being. First a number of affordable houses for rent were built on land belonging to the Parish Church in Keswick called St John’s. Secondly four apartments were built on a demolished toilet block. More recently the Methodist Church Hall was demolished and four houses built on the site including re-purposed stone from the original Hall.
In the foreword of Coming Home, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury spell out their ideas:
“The vision is centred on five core values, which are rooted in the Christian story but resonate with us all: good housing should be safe, stable, sociable and satisfying. We both firmly believe The Church of England has a major role in realising this vision.” Those five core values.
Safe: home should be a safe place with privacy and security.
Stable: housing needs to be affordable.
Sociable: homes should be able to offer hospitality to neighbours.
Satisfying: Home should be a place to enjoy.
Finally Sustainable: Housing needs to work in harmony with its environment.
Bill believes these are all solid values that all Churches, Communities, Housing Associations and everyone in the housing sector should subscribe to. There is a tremendous amount of really wise material in the report but his hope is that this taster will encourage others to use it as much as they can to help communities all over the country to deliver affordable housing at a time when it is desperately needed.