Bishop speaks out in Octavia Hill estates row

The Bishop of Southwark says he fully supports a new initiative to sort out the future of the Octavia Hill Estates after months of controversy.

The estates are made up of 1600 units in London – many in SE1 – which the Church Commissioners have been letting for nearly 100 years, mainly for people on low to average incomes. Local clergy and tenants are submitting to the Commissioners a proposal for a "Partnership in Ministry". This would give them a role with the Commissioners in managing the estates, and is designed to improve the income from them while keeping the majority of them at affordable rents for key workers.

Bishop Tom Butler says: "I am fully behind this idea. It will ensure that housing remains available for people in genuine housing need as well as for key workers, whilst also accepting that some properties be let at market rents."

The bishop added: "The way the Commissioners have managed and maintained these estates over the past century has not only been a lifeline to thousands of working class people, it has also helped build a strong sense of community in a rapidly changing environment."

The partnership proposals follow months of controversy, and a high-profile campaign by tenants which included a march on the Church Commissioners' HQ in Waterloo and a vigil outside Lambeth Palace.

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