Mark Prisk teams up with Church and defends bedroom tax
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities
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Housing minister Mark Prisk last week joined with representatives from churches and housing organisations for the “Mobilising the Church” conference in Bradford.
The minister took the time to defend the government's bedroom tax, which came into effect on 1 April, during the event.
A growing number of churches are opening night shelters and other offering other support for people in need.
While the Bradford conference - which was organised by Housing Justice, the national voice of Christian action on housing and homelessness - was a celebration of the churches' role, high on the agenda for many delegates was the urgent need to address the causes of homelessness.
Prisk said: "I am very pleased to be with you today at this Housing Justice conference. Churches do vital work in responding to the needs in their communities, and homeless rough sleepers are amongst the most vulnerable."
The MP outlined the government’s plans to improve housing supply, especially by encouraging more institutional investment. He also defended the controversial bedroom tax.
He said: “It makes no sense that there are one million spare bedrooms in social housing while there are more than two million people on housing waiting lists and a quarter of a million families living in seriously overcrowded accommodation.”
He also called on delegates to follow the example of Churches Together and get involved in new communities being built across the country. He cited Cranbrook near Exeter as a prime example, where a Christian Minister is already there to help bring the new community together as new residents move in.
The conference marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of Housing Justice in 2003, founded by the merger of the Catholic Housing Aid Society and the Churches National Housing Coalition.
Over 80 people attended, representing churches, Christian charities and housing and homelessness organisations including Green Pastures, Emmaus, Hope into Housing, Quaker Housing Trust, Homeless Beanies, The Passage, Boaz Trust, Nightstop, St George’s Crypt, Homeless Link, The Cardinal Hume Centre and many more.
Juli Thomson, of Bradford Inn Churches and Homeless Beanies, helped to organise the day. She said: “It was really encouraging to meet with so many Christians and others reaching out to the homeless. We have worked in partnership with Housing Justice since the launch of the Bradford Inn Churches Night Shelter in 2010, and this conference really helped to put our work into the national context.”
Workshops included setting up a new night shelter; using church land and property for affordable housing, and working in partnership to house homeless people in the private rented sector.
Housing Justice chief executive Alison Gelder said: “Churches have always been in the business of helping people in need. This 10th anniversary conference brought together our national network of friends and colleagues to look at ways we can meet the challenge of homelessness and housing need. Housing Justice will continue to speak up for those who are most vulnerable and excluded in society.”
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