Churches throughout Australia will be converted into social housing in order to make use of empty space, following an announcement from Minister for Families and Social Services, Anne Ruston.
“Catholic and Protestant churches throughout Australia will be renovated and repurposed into social housing, because most churches currently sit vacant for the majority of the year,” Ruston explained.
“This masterful plan is a pragmatic use of an under-utilised asset and an opportunity to finally provide an adequate level of safe accommodation to thousands of vulnerable people in Australia.”
The plan was devised in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left more people jobless or struggling to pay rent and provide for their families, which in turn placed even greater strain on an overstretched public housing system.
“Church buildings will be ‘decommissioned’ and renovated into apartment-style accommodation, and will provide basic and comfortable housing for individuals and small groups. The building contracts will soon be put out to tender, though we hear Scott Cam is very interested in receiving more taxpayer’s money,” Ms Ruston outlined.
The rationale for the world-first program was simple.
“Most churches are not used, except at Christmas and Easter. They are empty buildings. Very few people attend church services, and most of the regular parishioners are elderly, meaning there will be even fewer attendees in 10 years time. Space for new public housing is harder to find nowadays, so churches were an obvious choice.”
Churches were also chosen because they are situated in suburban locations near shops, transport, medical and recreational facilities. Many are also next to primary schools. Most Australian suburbs contain at least one church, including new suburbs.
“We are still deciding whether children will be eligible for this type of social housing, as most churches sit next to the house of the priest or minister. One solution to this problem is to house the priests or ministers elsewhere – maybe in the Tent of the Congregation.”
Church groups, meanwhile, are outraged at the plan.
“It is sacrilegious to destroy a place of holy worship and convert it into an apartment. It is an outrage. Churches are holy, sanctified buildings which connect worshippers with The Almighty. They are the centre of every parish. They must not be made into generic, cheap housing for any random person. Some of the residents may be non-Christians, some may have criminal records, be divorced, single parents or even be pedophiles,” claimed a spokesperson for an alliance of church leaders.
Supporters of the plan wonder whether church leaders are desperate to protect the holy buildings, or the expensive stained glass windows and other ornaments within them. Ms Ruston, meanwhile, was adamant that the churches will be protected in the renovation process.
“Delicate items such as the tabernacle and the stained glass windows will be removed and offered to the church to be used elsewhere. The renovations will be simple but tasteful, and if Scott Cam wins the tender, he will build the greatest bathrooms you have ever seen!”
Ms Ruston also reminded church leaders that their mandate is to serve the poor and the less fortunate, and to accept everyone. In addition, churches and religious buildings have been used throughout history to protect local people from invading armies or neighbouring tribes, natural disasters, bandits and even ruthless drug traffickers.
“Furthermore, all religious organisations receive financial assistance from the government as well as tax concessions, so it could be said that the churches were built and maintained with public money.”
Churches such as St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney will be retained as places of worship because they attract large numbers for regular church services, and because,
“…we need the tourism revenue, especially after border closures,” said Ms Ruston.
Renovation on selected churches will begin immediately after the 2021 Christmas rush.