Churches provide affordable homes


Empty churches and underused church land could help address Scotland's affordable housing shortage.

Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell praised 13 Scottish church bodies which have joined forces with the Scottish Government to promote greater use of surplus church properties and sites for affordable housing.

The Church Property & Housing Programme aims to help supplement the mainstream affordable housing programme, and contribute to sustaining rural communities.

It encourages and supports churches in making surplus property available for much needed-affordable housing. It identifies need, opportunity and viability, and creates links with planners, funders and developers.

In each of the next ten 10 years, the programme could see up to 50 affordable homes being provided, attracting capital investment, in the houses and related community regeneration, of over £35 million.

In Edinburgh today to address the Scottish Churches Housing Action Conference, Mr Maxwell paid tribute to the voluntary sector's role in maintaining and developing Scotland's progressive reputation in addressing homelessness.

He said:

"This Government recognises that tackling and preventing homelessness should be one of our priorities in creating a Scotland we can be proud of in the 21st century.

"The Church Property & Housing Programme has the potential to increase the supply of affordable housing by promoting greater use of surplus church properties and sites for affordable housing.

"We recognise the valuable contribution that the voluntary sector makes to tackling and preventing homelessness and addressing wider housing issues in Scotland.

"Scottish Churches Housing Action plays an invaluable role in addressing these issues with its volunteers providing front-line services that help those experiencing homelessness.

"It is also important that those that have faced homelessness feel part of our communities - that they feel able to contribute and do not suffer the effects of isolation - and this is never more the case than when re-building their lives after experiencing homelessness."

The Scottish Churches Housing Action also receives £75,000 from the Scottish Government this year through the Housing Voluntary Grants Scheme for its Churches Homelessness Initiative Programme.

SCHA has received over £650,000 in funding from the Housing Voluntary Grants Scheme since 1999.