"If the purpose of housing was understood as building homes and communities, not merely building accommodation with bricks and mortar, the whole nature of the industry would be changed."Justin Welby, Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope
Britain is in the midst of a housing crisis. It is a crisis which affects people’s material, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community will seek to re-imagine housing policy, with a focus on building better communities and homes, not just houses. As well as making recommendations for Government and others, it will also look at what actions the Church can take, in partnership with others, to help tackle the crisis at local, regional and national level.
The Commission is chaired by Charlie Arbuthnot with the support of The Right Reverend Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington. See a full list of the Commissioners below.
The Grenfell Tower disaster of June 2017 in North Kensington became almost at once a symbol of our country’s housing crisis. It served as a stark reminder of how we have marginalised whole sections of the population in sub-standard housing, but also brought to the surface the resilience and power of local communities in responding to this tragic event.
Most of us are affected in some way by the housing crisis. Indeed, we are seeing mounting problems, from unaffordable rents and insecure tenancies to poor quality housing and gross inequalities in housing wealth. But as is too often the case, it is the poorest who bear the brunt.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says that judgment is linked to justice, namely, in the way in which we treat those who are most vulnerable and weakest. Out of that extraordinary passage comes the Christian call to work for the welfare of everyone in our society, including shelter and a good home for all.
The Church – working with other public, private and voluntary organisations that share this vision – has a significant contribution to make in this area. We have land and resources that can be used to help meet the need for more affordable housing. We have social capital that can be used to uphold people’s right to a decent and secure home. We have a long history and expertise in community-building that can be used to shape new developments where people can flourish.
The Commission seeks to contribute, from a distinctly Christian perspective, to the very widespread debates that are taking place and the significant work already being done in this vital area.
The Commission works across four connected streams of work to influence distinct audiences:
- Theology: Led by the Right Reverend Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, this stream aims to develop an authentically Christian framework for understanding housing and community-building issues
- Policy: Led by Sir Robert Devereux KCB, this stream will offer policy recommendations to Government and the housing sector to shape the trajectory of future housing policy
- National Church Institutions and Dioceses: Led by Chris Beales, this stream will investigate how these institutions can be positioned as a significant contributor to creating and sustaining communities
- Local Church and Community: Led by Lynne Cullens, this stream will equip local churches to meet the housing needs of their communities
We hope that you will join us in hope-filled expectation for the work of the Commission, as it seeks the common good and the welfare of everyone in our society, including a decent and secure home for all.
Charlie Arbuthnot (Chair)
Charlie Arbuthnot worked in investment banking in the City from 1978 until 2008. During this time, he opened up various new markets including the market for private finance for housing associations and advised Her Majesty’s Government on introducing private finance to the social housing sector.In 2008, he left to set up his own business and became a self-employed financial advisor to housing associations. This has allowed him to focus on a wider remit covering both financial advice to housing associations and strategic advice around building community and inter-connecting relevant stakeholders with a view to community transformation. Charlie also sat on the main board of The Housing Finance Corporation (2008-2018) and was the Chair of THFC's Credit Committee (2014-2018). His pro bono roles include work with the London Borough of Wandsworth on faith and community, hate crime and elderly outreach, mentoring various individuals and several small emerging businesses, and chairing his church’s strategy team.
The Right Reverend Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington
Bishop Graham worked in insurance for a number of years before training for ordination at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He was curate at St Leonard’s Church in Exeter, before returning to Oxford to be Chaplain of Jesus College and a tutor at Wycliffe Hall. He completed a PhD on the Theology of the Cross in St Paul, Martin Luther and Blaise Pascal, and went on to teach Historical Theology full-time at Wycliffe, where he was also Vice Principal for eight years. He also taught within the Theology Faculty of Oxford University. In 2005, he moved to London with his wife, Janet, to help launch St Paul’s Theological Centre, which in 2007 became part of the newly launched St Mellitus College. He was the College’s first Dean and oversaw the initial significant growth of the College over the following eight years, and he continues in a role as President of the College today. He became Bishop of Kensington in 2015 and was closely involved in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
Chris is an Anglican clergyman and social entrepreneur with over four decades’ experience of working in community economic and social development, with a particular focus on issues of faith and economy. He pioneered the Government’s work with faith communities whilst on secondment from the Church of England’s General Synod to the Government’s cross-departmental Action for Cities Unit and has extensive experience of working with volunteers, in local communities (in UK and overseas), with black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and on national and international development issues. As an Anglican priest, he has served in parochial ministry and industrial mission. He is the author of numerous articles, papers, reports and books. He is an experienced fundraiser and has set up over a dozen charities, companies and social enterprises. Chris is deeply committed to building a just society in practical, sustainable ways. His current main focus is on housing, especially new housing developments.
Professor Christine Whitehead
Christine is an internationally respected applied economist working mainly in the fields of housing economics, finance and policy. She has worked with a wide range of international agencies as well as regularly for the UK government and Parliament. She was Director of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research from 1990 to 2010 as well as Professor at LSE. Major themes in her recent research have included analysis of the relationship between planning and housing; the role of private renting in the UK and in European housing systems; and financing social housing in the UK and Europe. She is special adviser to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, a member of the Letwin panel on Build Out Rates and adviser to the House of Commons Work and Pensions committee on their inquiry into welfare support for housing costs and latterly for Communities and Local Government Select Committee on private renting. She was awarded the OBE for services to housing in 1991.
Cym became Chief Executive of Arawak Walton Housing Association in 1998. Cym is a qualified Chartered Accountant. Cym sits on the Strategic Housing Partnerships in Manchester, Trafford and Stockport. She is currently Chair of BME National which is the umbrella forum for over 35 BME housing associations which aims to promote equality and diversity in the provision of housing and support serves. It works under the banner of the National Housing Federation. She is a member of the advisory group for the North West Housing Forum and the Greater Manchester Providers (Chief Executives) Forum. She has been a member of the Greater Manchester Police Ethics Committee since 2014.
David Orr CBE
David is a hugely experienced leader in both Executive and Non- Executive roles. He has over 30 years experience in Chief Executive roles, most recently at the National Housing Federation, having previously been Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and of Newlon Housing Trust. In his current portfolio of Non-Executive roles David is Chair of Reall, an international development housing charity, Chair of Clarion HA Board, Chair of ReSI Housing and a board member of Clanmil HA. He is a previous President of Housing Europe. David is also co-Chair of the European Affordable Housing Outlook, a joint Housing Europe and UNECE study. David is widely regarded as a compelling and inspiring public speaker focusing on the challenge of optimistic leadership and the critical importance of great governance. He has huge media experience, is a well-regarded commentator and blogger and has extensive expertise navigating the sometimes opaque world of politics and government. In June 2018 David was awarded a CBE.
Lynne is a Parish vicar and trustee and vice-chair of the National Estate Churches Network (NECN). Prior to ordination she was a CEO with a professional background in charities, community development and housing, having worked as a local authority housing officer and as company lead on tenant participation and engagement for a social housing provider. Lynne had several years’ engagement in fieldwork for PSSRU - a research unit of the Universities of Kent and Manchester and the London School of Economics - as part of the evaluation of the extra-care housing initiative. She has also worked as consultant to policy reviews, community planning and cohesion interventions. Born in Ordsall, Salford, Lynne is passionate about issues of poverty, inequality and disadvantage. She writes and speaks on such issues as they affect the Church and wider culture.
Marvin is the elected Mayor of Bristol. Marvin began his career at a UK international Christian aid agency and other voluntary sector roles. His determination to improve opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds led him to found the City Leadership Programme in 2012, which invests in the personal development and training for future leaders, and continues as its director. Marvin has pledged to make Bristol a fairer city for all. His priorities are to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis by building more homes and protecting private housing, improve transport and people flow across the city, ensure early intervention in health and well-being and progress social mobility through access to education and skills. He has developed the ‘City Office’ for Bristol, bringing together the organisations and groups with the largest footprint in the city to better work together and coordinate solutions to the problems facing the city as a whole.
Sir Robert Devereux KCB
Robert was Permanent Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions for seven years, until retiring from the civil service in January 2018. Robert was previously Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport for two and half years. Earlier in his career, Robert worked in Overseas Development, spent a decade at Her Majesty’s Treasury, spent a two-year secondment with Guinness Brewing Worldwide, returning to the civil service to work in the then Department for Social Security. Robert was knighted in the 2016 New Year’s Honours list for services to transport and welfare and for voluntary services in Kilburn. The latter included local youth work, and school governorships. He was, for many years, on the PCC of St Luke’s West Kilburn, and twice served as churchwarden. He was made an Honorary Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford in 2017.
Stephen is the Dean of Theology for the Local Church at the Westminster Theological Centre and the Director and primary teacher of Tent Theology. Previously he was Lecturer in Social and Political Theology at St Mellitus College. He is the author of numerous books and articles on theological politics and church history, including the Compact Guide to Christian History (2011), Kierkegaard's Critique of Christian Nationalism (2011), Kierkegaard: A Single Life (2016), and the forthcoming Essential Companion to Christian History (2019).
The Commission's most recent study visit was to Newham in East London. Read our blog to find out more. For more news from the Commission, see the links below, or fill in our form to join our mailing list.
Responding to the housing crisis
The Commission seeks to listen to people with direct experience of housing issues and hear from local churches and other organisations with experience of tackling these issues in their community throughout the course of its work. If you would like to be in touch with the Commission to share your experience/expertise, please fill out the form below.