A national charity is calling for the Church of England to release land for affordable housing.
A growing number of Christian denominations are disposing of underused or unused land, selling or donating it to developers and housing associations to build new homes, according to the charity Housing Justice.
The Church, one of the country’s biggest landowners, has identified 6,000 acres from its 105,000 acre current stock.
Its property holdings were valued at just under £2bn at the end of 2015 in its last annual report, almost a third of the £6.7bn it owns in assets.
Housing Justice, which runs a national network of homeless night shelters, is also in talks with churches to lease their land for five years or more to allow for modular housing or ‘pop-up’ homes to be erected.
It is not just land, but also unused religious buildings which could be converted into houses.
Jacob Quagliozzi, deputy director of Housing Justice, said: “Church land is an untapped resource.
“We estimate small church-led development could make a significant impact on rural housing need, delivering as much as a third of the level of housing required.”
Many of these would be small sites suitable for small building companies.
Church land is owned by each of the 41 dioceses in England and according to denomination, so the process of selling it is complicated. In Wales, there has been more success as the church system is centralised, and so it is easier to match land to local authorities or housing associations.
The charity acts as a conduit between church dioceses and developers. Under charity law, the Church can sell land below market value if it is for social housing.