Will Glasgow City Council stand up for tenants?

Living Rent statement on GCC Full Council meeting, 11 March 2021

There are just six months until the eyes of the world descend on Glasgow for COP26. Living Rent urges Glasgow City Council to meet the challenge of our Tenants’ Manifesto and ensure that environmental and housing justice are at the heart of the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

We welcome the Council’s declaration of a rent crisis in the city, and support its calls for the Scottish Government to provide effective measures for rent control and investment in repairing pre-1919 tenement stock. We also support the Council’s strategic commitments to maximising delivery of homes for social rent and bringing vacant land into productive use. 

But words must be backed up by action. We keenly await the answers to two questions posed to the Council meeting on 11 March: How will Glasgow respond to the Scottish Government’s proposed £268 million cut to investment in social and affordable homes? And when will the City Convenor for Neighbourhoods, Housing & Public Realm establish the tenant-led commission on private-rented sector reform?

Living Rent demands a seat at the table. And we are absolutely clear that none of the city’s housing or climate targets can be met, nor its private sector controlled, so long as council-owned land continues to be sold off for private developments on the site of former public housing. 

Living Rent members are directly challenging such socially and environmentally-damaging developments at Beith Street, Collina Street, Ruchill Hospital, Water Row and Shawbridge Street. Glasgow can either be a leading example of restorative justice, building high-quality public or social housing that meets the highest environmental standards. Or it can continue to greenlight massive for-profit developments dominated by build-to-let complexes, purpose built student accommodation, gated private communities and luxury hotels. The Council must make a choice.

Glasgow City Council has also committed itself to ‘building power in local communities’ as part of its social recovery plan. Here too a choice must be made. Empowering communities means reducing the power of unaccountable and highly-remunerated executives at Glasgow Life, City Property and the Wheatley Group to decide on the fate of our city’s housing, land and local services. It means taking power away from multinational developers like Osborne+Co or estate agents like Savills. And it must not serve as cover for local austerity and privatisation through the transfer of responsibilities for council-owned services and buildings to 3rd sector organisations, community groups, businesses and entrepreneurs - as set out in the People Make Glasgow Communities plan.

Over the past 12 months, Living Rent branches have provided a real example of what it means to build neighbourhood power and community engagement. Our members in GHA properties have undertaken a mass rent consultation exercise to gain the views of tenants who have been told to ‘put rent first’ in the midst of a global pandemic. In Govanhill, our members have mobilised community support, collected 1,500 signatures, and worked alongside GMB cleansing workers to demand urgent investment in cleansing services and backcourt teams. In Pollokshields and Langside, union members have successfully campaigned for clear assurances on the future of libraries and other local services, with Glasgow Life finally announcing a reopening plan after almost a year of limited communication with communities.

Another of GCC’s strategic aims is to be ‘a well governed city that listens and responds.’ Well the people have spoken – so time to listen! We want Glasgow to be a city fighting for the future, and proud of its social housing, insulated tenements, clean backcourts, quality local services and protected built heritage.

When COP26 rolls into town, it is this that delegates will judge our city on – not conference facilities and luxury hotels.

Time is running out. Will Glasgow City Council stand up for tenants?