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Providing housing, making homes: Quaker Housing Trust celebrates 50 years of service

Paula Harvey of Quaker Housing Trust writes about the Quaker spiritual concern for housing in Britain.

Quakers helped reverse population decline on the Isle of Mull by funding an affordable housing project. Photo: Carolyne Charington/Ulva Ferry Housing Project
Quakers helped reverse population decline on the Isle of Mull by funding an affordable housing project. Photo: Carolyne Charington/Ulva Ferry Housing Project

Housing is not just about providing 'bricks and mortar', but also about challenging inequalities and prejudices. This is reflected in the range of projects supported by and through Quaker Housing Trust (QHT), a national charity set up by Quakers in 1967.

Over the past 50 years, Quakers have funded hundreds of social housing projects through Quaker Housing Trust. In 2017 alone, the charity was able to support 17 different projects which made a positive difference to people's lives. For example, capital costs funding enabled The Jericho Foundation to purchase a building that will give women who have experienced domestic abuse a safe place to live and help to rebuild their independence.

Specialist grants supported Tunbridge Wells Quakers and the local YMCA in realising an ambitious nine-year-long project this spring. They have converted the meeting house into nine studio flats for homeless young adults, and created a new worship space for Friends. The cake baked to celebrate the project launch was decorated with the Quaker saying, 'Live adventurously'.

Practical help

A hundred years ago British Quakers adopted the eight 'Foundations of a True Social Order', still quoted in Quaker faith & practice (23.16). Friends applied these to housing, and Quaker Housing Trust was the eventual result. QHT is unique among housing funders because we use the Quaker business method to inform our decisions, as well as trustees' expertise and experience. Every application is dealt with individually, on its own merits, as we seek to find the right balance between how best to help that project and use our limited resources.

From the very beginning, QHT has helped projects provide homes to individuals and families in housing need. We aim to use our resources where they can make a genuine and positive difference by supporting small, local, often innovative, housing projects through interest-free loans and grants.

There are many elements to making a home appropriate to the needs of the occupants. One is ensuring that the cost of living there is genuinely affordable. Another is adequate and well-designed spaces in which to live comfortably. We also actively encourage applicants to meet high standards of energy efficient house design and heating, which both contributes to environmental sustainability and helps bring down running costs for the tenants and the project.

Social justice

In its first 10 years QHT primarily helped projects housing elderly people, families, ex-prisoners, 'unmarried mothers', and single people who were lonely and/or homeless. Last year, a third of the projects funded are housing refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. We are now receiving many approaches from projects in rural Scotland such as the one in Mull (pictured above) that want to preserve and support communities in need of affordable homes for local people.

Quakers have long believed in the importance of everyone having access to a proper home, and the need to work for an improvement in the availability of housing to make that a reality. QHT continues to respond creatively to projects finding local housing solutions for people of all ages and with a wide range of needs. We welcome your support and applications.

View our 50th anniversary report here (PDF)