The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a major new commission to explore how the Church can help to resolve Britain's housing crisis.
Speaking at the launch today in Northampton, the Most Rev Justin Welby warned that the housing shortage was one of the "major challenges" facing Britain and that the nation needed to think about more than just the bricks and mortars of housing to build strong communities.
The Commission on Housing, Church and Community will bring together academics, housing experts and theologians over the course of the next 18 months to discuss Christian perspectives on the provision of good homes and how communities can thrive.
In addition to quality housing, the commission will consider the types of facilities and projects that can support communities and strengthen bonds between neighbours.
The commission has been launched off the back of Archbishop Welby's book published last year, Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, in which he connected good quality housing with equality and justice, and argued that creating community should be the driving principle behind housing provision.
The Archbishop said that although the Church was already running a number of community-focused projects like food banks and night shelters, it was important to see what more could be done to "bind communities together with bonds of friendship, compassion and mutual support".
He stressed that "any way forward must involve building communities, not just houses".
"Britain's housing crisis is one of the major challenges facing this country – and it is hitting the poorest the hardest. While there is already significant work being done to find solutions, the Church has something unique to contribute," he said.
"The Archbishop of Canterbury's Commission on Housing, Church and Community will consider what else we could and should be doing, as a Church and as a nation. In doing so, I hope it might help reclaim the very purpose of housing – as the basis for community, and a foundation for human flourishing."
The Bishop of Kensington, the Rt Rev Graham Tomlin, who is co-leading the commission, said many people could not afford current rent prices or were living in poor-quality housing. Others "find themselves unable to stay in the communities to which they belong", he said.
"Our hope is that by exploring a Christian vision of housing, home and community we can make a contribution to solving some of these long-standing issues that our society has struggled to resolve over many years," he said.
Charlie Arbuthnot, commission chair, said the commission aimed to offer a distinctive Christian contribution to discussions around housing.
"As well as proposing action by the Church of England – at local, regional, and national level – the commission will explore how, informed by the Christian faith, we can contribute to the national debate," he said.
"We need to build good homes and supportive communities, with the provision of spaces for people to meet, share and celebrate together. We hope to support and inspire all sections of society including public, private and voluntary organisations that share this vision."
The launch coincided with the release of an independent report from the Centre for Theology and Community and the Church of England, which said that the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster was a "stark reminder of how we have marginalised whole sections of the population in sub-standard housing".
The report recommends that the Church use some of its land and resources to help meet the need for more affordable housing.
In addition, the Church should tap into its social capital and expertise in community-building to "uphold people's right to a decent and secure home" and help "shape new developments where people can flourish".