Quakers press for housing justice
Soaring house prices, welfare cuts and loss of social housing have sparked a housing crisis. For Quakers at Yearly Meeting it was a hot topic and now they are questioning peers who are beginning a line by line examination of The Housing and Planning Bill in the House of Lords.
Quakers in Britain say this Bill is a missed opportunity for the government to reduce inequality in the housing system. Instead it will increase inequality between those who are home-owners and those who are not.
The Housing and Planning Bill
The Bill will make provision about housing, estate agents, rent charges, planning and compulsory purchase.
At Yearly Meeting in 2015, Quakers spoke out strongly against the proposal to extend the 'right to buy' legislation to housing associations. This issue was raised in submissions sent by Quakers in Britain to the House of Commons and to the House of Lords.
They wrote:" We are deeply concerned that the Bill does not include an explicit commitment to replace social housing sold under right to buy. We ask for a commitment for like-for-like replacements to social housing lost through right to buy."
Quakers supported an amendment in the House of Commons to Clause 56 which would have required "housing associations offering the right to buy to their tenants to re-invest all the money received as a result of the sale in replacement local affordable housing, including a guaranteed like-for-like home in the same area". In the Bill before the House of Lords, this Clause has become Clause 62.
Quakers and housing justice
Around the country, Quakers are picking up this concern. London Quakers are holding a day conference to discuss the housing crisis. “Housing inequality – What cast thou do?" is free and open to all on Saturday, 20 February in Friends House, London. The keynote speaker will be Robert (Bob) Kerslake, member of the House of Lords and former Head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
For more than 100 years Quakers have promoting social housing. They were early supporters of the new 'garden cities' and are long-term advocates of good quality and affordable housing for all. In 1967 Quaker Housing Trust (QHT), was created to channel Quaker money into the creation of social housing – homes – for people in housing need.
Quaker organisations working for housing justice include Quaker Social Action.
The problem is not an insoluble one and our voices can be heard.- Quakers in Britain
Yearly Meeting recorded that Quakers' concern about housing is rooted in faith and grounded in the belief that everyone is equal in the eyes of God.
They said the concern is driven “by our belief that all are equally children of God and our experience that a home is essential for our spiritual wellbeing, not just for our physical and mental health. There is a continuing housing crisis in this country and inequality in housing is a highly visible and damaging symptom of injustice in our society."
The statement continued, “We need both to examine our own lives and to seek to influence public policy to support equality. The problem is not an insoluble one and our voices can be heard."