Since 2016 the York Circuit has been using manses that were not currently needed for ministers to house refugee families. Two manses are currently occupied by families who arrived in the UK under government schemes designed to resettle vulnerable people from Syria and Afghanistan. This project initially grew out of the Circuit’s response to the war in Syria and the ‘Refugees Welcome’ campaign which encouraged churches to consider what they could do to show God’s caring love to those seeking safety from conflict and hardship.

While Methodist property generally has to be let at market rate, the Methodist Council has the power to grant exemptions to this under Model Trust 20. York Circuit were able to go ahead with these projects because the Methodist Council had agreed to exemptions enabling letting to refugees covered by certain resettlement schemes, making it easier to get permission in place. The process was otherwise the same as for any residential letting, with TMCP being involved to check the tenancy agreement met legal requirements.

The houses are let through the City of York’s in-house non-profit letting agency YorHome, who find the tenants, manage the letting day-to-day including all maintenance and repair work as well as providing additional support for the residents. While the Circuit receives a little less than market rent, the letting still generates a surplus for Circuit funds and this enables the properties to be kept in good repair and compliant with Housing Health and Rating System (HHRS) guidelines. Both properties are let in a way which means they can be brought back into use as a manse if needed with a few months’ notice but also give much-needed stability for the families.

This scheme is part of a broader commitment by the Circuit to welcoming refugees and helping them to settle into life in the UK, recognising that our faith calls us to welcome the stranger and seek justice for those in need. Local church members have also provided support for refugees in other ways, such as hosting Ukrainian refugees in their homes, donating items and money and volunteering in initiatives that provide hospitality, sign-posting to specialist support and opportunities to practice language skills. The Circuit also works with local charities, in particular Refugee Action York, the local authority and University of York to host work with asylum seekers and refugees including advice drop-ins, emergency clothing distribution and language support at the Circuit Office Hub.

By Lois Cross York Circuit Support Manager and Angie Creswick York Circuit Resources Manager

If you have a manse or other building that you are interested in either letting or selling for affordable housing or housing vulnerable groups, please email charlotte betts, the property support manager bettsc@methodistchurch.org.uk. Charlotte will be able to signpost you to information and resources to help you look at options.

As well, both Lois or Angie could be contacted via yorkcircuitresources@gmail.com.