4 May 2021 | Comment | Article by Caroline O'Flaherty

A home for everyone: Next steps for using church land and buildings for affordable housing

Since 2013, Housing Justice Cymru has been working with churches of all denominations to release surplus land or buildings for affordable housing.

Many churches are looking to repurpose around 4,500 underutilised buildings and make them useful in a way that serves their communities.

The ‘Faith in Affordable Housing’ programme helps churches identify land or buildings they no longer require and connects them with local charitable housing associations, in partnerships that meet a real need. Over 350 affordable homes have been delivered through the programme since it began 8 years ago.

We wholeheartedly support this fantastic scheme. It strengthens communities and supports individuals within them – both are outcomes we champion at Hugh James.

With the demand for affordable housing unlikely to be met without an increase in supply, future-proofing this important initiative is crucial. So, we were delighted when we were asked to contribute to a study looking at how Housing Justice Cymru can further develop the project.

Supporting housing specialist and lead author, Mike Owen, we used our skills and expertise to help shape some of the recommendations, which have now been published in the Report for Faith in Affordable Housing: Scoping a Strategic Partnership.

It puts forward a new operating model to help faith groups identify suitable new sites and extract the best value from them. It articulates a robust framework tender model for developing effective strategic partnerships between Housing Justice Cymru and Housing Associations, whilst allowing Welsh local authorities the opportunity to join in. Further, it examines whether the success of the Faith in Affordable Housing programme in Wales can be replicated in England.

We were pleased to lend our support. Caroline O’Flaherty, a Partner in our Commercial Property team and Emily Powell, a Partner in our Procurement and State Aid team, offered advice around procurement legislation, framework modelling, grant funding, and housing association legislation.

Mike Owen, Lead Author of the report, and Director of Perran Consulting, said today:

“Housing Justice Cymru were looking to develop a solution for Wales that was transparent and practical. Hugh James brought the expected expert legal advice, but, more importantly, they understood the operating environment of working in Wales where housing is, of course, developed - as well as the nature and values of the Welsh housing sector.”

Commenting on the report, Commercial Property Partner, Caroline O’Flaherty said:

“With so much surplus land and property, the easy option could be to rush into the arms of property developers. The Faith in Affordable Housing programme provides a unique and effective way for the church to literally build on its missive of doing good in society. We wanted to play our part in supporting this. Offering our legal expertise to help shape the programme’s future strategy, is just one small way we can help bolster the important work of Housing Justice Cymru in solving the homelessness crisis.”

Speaking about her involvement in the report, Partner in the Procurement and State Aid team, Emily Powell commented:

“Setting a robust procurement framework for strategic partnerships is an important step in driving forward sustainable collaboration that delivers positive outcomes. The operating model outlined in this report should enable faith groups, social housing providers and government bodies, to deliver housing in a way that upholds and protects the assets of the church – and its vision to serve those most in need.”

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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