COVID-19: Pandemic has ‘stripped the paper off the cracks’ in society, warns Archbishop of Canterbury

The current lockdown “has been one of the most painful for the most people” and the COVID crisis has “stripped the paper off the cracks” in society, the Archbishop of Canterbury has told Sky News.

Justin Welby spoke to the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme following the release of “a very powerful report” in which the Church of England has been challenged to examine how its 6,000 acres of “strategic land” could be used to deliver more affordable housing.

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Mr Welby said the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a “schools crisis”, revealed the “full extent” of a “housing crisis”, and left the health service “desperately tired”.

“The pandemic has stripped the paper off the cracks which we’ve covered up,” he added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on Monday due to set out his roadmap for lifting England’s current lockdown.

And Mr Welby said a roadmap was needed that would “stop us going up and down”.

The new “Coming Home” report, researched over nearly two years by the Commission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Housing, warns that around eight million people of all ages live in “overcrowded, unaffordable, or unsuitable homes”, while those in poverty “bear the brunt of this injustice”.

“The scale and consequences of the housing crisis have been further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is a national scandal,” the report added.

The 10-member strong Commission have called for a “bold, coherent, long-term housing strategy” from the government, while arguing that the Church should use its land assets to “promote more truly affordable homes”.

According to their report, the Church manages £8.7bn of assets, with roughly 15% in various land holdings.

Some 3% of the portfolio, 6,000 acres, is held as “strategic land” suitable for housing, with the report recommending a review is carried out on whether such assets could be used for affordable homes and the Church “not simply be driven towards land sales at the highest price”.

Mr Welby said there needed to be a “national common vision” for housing, which could be compared to the foundation of the NHS in the 1940s.

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“This isn’t about this government or its immediate predecessors, it goes right back through all parties,” he added. “We need a national common vision for housing and that will be sacrificial.

“The report calls on the church to be sacrificial, not to take its maximum possible benefit, that it the challenge I welcome and support.

“I affirm that, I call on the church to react in that way. And it calls on government and land owners in the same way.”

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