Investing in the transformation of London

The Bishop of London has officially launched the London Missional Housing Bond. The Bond is seeking to raise £2million to enable a partnership of churches and Christian organisations to buy houses and flats. These properties will then be rented, at affordable rents, to church workers serving in our capital’s most deprived communities.

The Bond was launched in the Mercers’ Hall in the City of London – the historic home of commerce and finance. The wealth of the City contrasts starkly with the deeply ingrained poverty to be found in the areas which will benefit from the Bond – including the East End; worlds apart, yet less than a mile away. The purpose of the Bond is to begin to reconnect London’s wealth with its disadvantaged communities, through the church.

House prices in London have now reached astronomic levels, even in the most disadvantaged communities in inner London. It is arguably now a social crisis. For churches attempting to promote the social transformation that is so badly needed, the price of housing has become a major obstacle to mission. Churches cannot afford to house their youth workers, community organisers and interns in the same neighbourhood. These staff often commute long distances or even move to work somewhere else.

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The Bond tackles this problem head on.  By raising funds (starting from £5,000) from a range of investors – individuals, churches, institutions – it will be possible to buy houses and flats outright and then rent them to church workers at more affordable rates than anything the open market provides. The business model allows the payment of a modest rate of interest to investors (up to 2%).

That is why this is a social investment. Investing in the Bond will not make you rich! It will, however, enable local churches in some of London’s most deprived communities to take on workers and kick-start much needed missional projects. Investors will know their money is working hard giving a social return.

The Bond is being delivered by Affordable Christian Housing, a long established Christian housing association based in London. They are working on behalf of three key partners:

- The Diocese of London, overseeing a network of parishes

- The Eden Network, which places teams in estates across London

- The Contextual Theology Centre, which supports churches across East London to engage in integrated mission to their communities.

These partners will oversee the Bond, decide where to buy the houses and select tenants.

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The Bond launch event itself was a resounding success. It brought together a diverse mix of bishops, clergy and potential investors as well as some of the church workers who might benefit from the Bond – youth workers, interns and community organisers. In this mix, we might perhaps also see the glimmerings of a second social transformation – not just of the deprived communities that stand to benefit, but also of the way that wealth is viewed and invested by those fortunate enough to own it. In an era of irresponsible capitalism, new attitudes to the use of money are needed.

Here we see the church playing an ancient role – bringing rich and poor together and reminding them both of their equality in the eyes of God. What markets and governments cannot do, perhaps the Church can?

For more information on how to invest in the Bond, please click here.

UPDATE: The Bond launch features in today’s Daily Telegraph City Diary (27/02/2013)

The Diocese Of London website now features the Bond and quotes for all partner organisations.

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