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Diocese of Exeter
Bishop Robert 2023 Photo (003).jpg
Diocese of Exeter
World News

Bishop of Exeter calls for 'systemic change' to tackle housing crisis

by Donna Birrell

The Bishop of Exeter says that “systemic change” is needed to tackle the housing crisis in rural and coastal communities.

Opening a House of Lords debate on housing on Monday, Rt Rev Robert Atwell said: “The demand for social housing in rural areas is growing at ten times the rate of that in towns and cities.

“In Devon, with the current rate of net additions to affordable housing stock, even if housing waiting lists closed tomorrow, it would still take over 32 years to clear the backlog.”

Bishop Robert also said that the number of rental properties available in the county had fallen below 700.

His speech came on the same day as a speech by the government’s housing secretary, Michael Gove, which set out reforms to tackle the housing crisis focusing on urban rather than rural areas.

The bishop, who is retiring in September, accused the government of falling “woefully short” of its own affordable housing targets.

He also said the Church had a “significant part to play,” as highlighted in the Coming Home report by the Archbishop’s Commission on Housing.

He concluded: “Without partnership and systemic change, the spiral of deprivation will become more acute.

“We need cross-departmental working and cross-party agreement to forge a coherent long-term strategy that will secure good housing and the flourishing of our rural and coastal communities.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to meet his party's commitment of building a million homes before the next General Election. Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove has also announced proposals to relax planning rules in England in an effort to create more homes in "the hearts of our cities".


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