‘It’s about justice’ – meet England’s first bishop for housing

+Guli000_ Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani

The Church of England publishes a report on the housing crisis this weekend. Refugee-turned-bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani tells Elizabeth Hopkirk she is serious about turning recommendations into actions

“Housing is an issue of justice, which Jesus cares about intimately.” With these words Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, announced at an industry conference last month that he was appointing a bishop for housing. The news was greeted with surprise and curiosity, welcomed by some, dismissed as an irrelevance by others. What was the leader of the Anglican Communion doing addressing a housing conference? And what can the third estate achieve where the first and second have so singularly failed?

For those watching more closely, the appointment of Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani has not come out of the blue but is a response to a report due to be published this weekend. Coming Home is the fruit of the heavyweight Commission on Housing, Church and Community established by Welby two years ago to examine the housing crisis in all its complexity from theological and practical perspectives. A bishop for housing sitting in the House of Lords is one of its recommendations.

The Church of England has political influence and a moral authority as well as, many would say, a moral duty to speak out – and of course it has done so in various ways over centuries. With a community in every parish, the Church is uniquely connected to the people at the sharp end of the housing crisis. It also owns a huge amount of land.

Building Design spoke to Bishop Guli about what she hopes to achieve, and heard her remarkable story which drives a passion for justice for the dispossessed. We also asked housing specialists what they make of her appointment.

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