Comment: St Albans makes rich list with holy property portfolio

St Albans Cathedral. Picture: Alan Davies

St Albans Cathedral. Picture: Alan Davies - Credit: Alan Davies

As anyone local to St Albans and Harpenden will know, they’re two of the priciest places to live in the UK.   

In fact, it’s rare to see a ‘most expensive cities/commuter towns/areas of England’ list that doesn’t include at least one of our high-end enclaves.  

A study released this week has offered up a whole new angle, however: our Cathedral city has ranked third in a countdown of the areas of England with the highest value religious real estate.  

According to research by Yes Homebuyers, the Church of England has a property portfolio worth a hefty £10.3bn, a solid chunk of which is in St Albans. 

The home buying firm looked at the number of CofE churches in each area of England, ranked the size of their property portfolios based on estimated square footage, then worked out what this   equates to from a residential standpoint based on current market values. 

Oxford topped the table with £953m of religious real estate, followed by London with £624m and St Albans with £571m.  

Matthew Cooper, founder and managing director of Yes Homebuyers, commented with some understatement that “the Church of England is probably sitting on one of the most   valuable real estate portfolios around”.   

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Noting that CofE attendance across England has dropped from 975,300 to 871,000 since 2014, he added: “Some may question whether such a vast level of real estate is required when attendance has fallen, and we remain pushed for space when addressing the current housing crisis. 

“Should the Church of England decide to offload some of its portfolio, it would add a considerable sum to their balance sheet based on current market values.” 

Anyone like the sound of that?  

I love a quirky church conversion as much as the next person, but I can’t see our well-used - and much-loved - Cathedral being turned into flats anytime soon.