All local churches engaged in mission are likely to have the question of new housing on their agenda. In some places, like Calverton near Milton Keynes, the question is enormous as the village of 150 residents face the arrival of 16,000 new neighbours. Nearly all parts of the country have new housing areas and it is both a challenge and an opportunity for all the churches that serve the growin,g community.
The official website for everything to do with planning – the Planning Portal (www.planningportal.gov.uk) provides up to date information about housing need from various sources for the Housing and Development Needs Assessment to what methodology is employed. Other information and formal National, regional and local ‘Plans’ for new housing are available from an online search eg Local Authorities, Development Corporations, newspaper articles etc.
In June 2015 the Westminster Government website hosts a report of housing need from 2010 called Estimating Housing Need. This provides a background to various assessments that have been made on that need since. For example one assessment in May 2018 suggests that there is nearly a 4m homes shortfall in the UK.
The official Government document 2012-based Househould Projections: England, 2012-2037 states that ‘the number of households in England is projected to increase from 22.3 million in 2012 to 27.5 million in 2037.
The National Planning Policy Framework published in 2012, sets out the Government planning policies for England on which all regional and local planning. Section 70 is critical for the purpose of how the church engages with the new housing agenda, as it includes ‘places of worship’, making such provision possible in regional and local plans.
‘Places of worship’ are not the only way in which the church engages with new housing. Indeed there are many groups of churches engaging in other ways, eg with a faith school, pioneer minister, community centre, regular outreach, environmental project etc.
Housing, and new housing in particular, is a challenge for the church, but it is also an opportunity.