Greum Maol Stevenson

socialhousing

image from glasgow housing association's social media, with images of smiling tenants and balloons, inviting tenants to a citywide panel

A week ago today, Glasgow Housing Association invited Wyndford residents to a “drop-in session” at the Maryhill Hub, to “have your say on GHA’s exciting new regeneration plans.” As those plans involve the demolition of more than 600 homes, and GHA’s Locality Housing Director, Linzi Heggie, has already admitted that the demolition will go ahead no matter what tenants say, some tenants of those homes were there with a list of questions.

Linzi Heggie was not there, so we spoke to some housing officers, who told us “the consultation is not a vote,” even though everyone who lives in the Wyndford — including homeowners — can submit a ballot paper saying whether or not they think the high flats should be demolished. Asked what the consultation is actually for, they said they did not know.

They also did not know the answers to the other questions, except for why no one-bedroom flats have been listed on GHA’s website in months (the answer is that tenants in a priority band are offered the flats before they are listed, which presumably means the flats that are listed are ones nobody wanted). This is not the fault of the housing officers, who are as helpful as they can possibly be in these circumstances. They offered to take the questions to their bosses. A week later, there has been no response. Here are the questions:

The Consultation

  1. Linzi Heggie has indicated that the blocks will be demolished regardless of the outcome of the questionnaire. So what is the purpose of the consultation?

  2. Why, when the blocks were ‘assumed for demolition’ as early as February 2021 (from Wheatley Group Board Meeting Feb 2021), were tenants not informed, or 'consulted', until November 2021?

  3. Why was this not put forward in the consultation/propaganda for the merger with CUBE?

  4. Why was GHA making decisions about the demolition of property they did not own at that time?

  5. Did GHA consider the implications of asking tenants how ‘excited’ they were at the prospect of their homes being demolished?

  6. Why does the consultation not offer us a way to support regeneration while keeping the 26 storey blocks?

  7. Why did they not include questions asking about negative impacts on tenants?

  8. The drop-in sessions at The Hub were all held within office hours on weekdays. Does GHA acknowledge that this excludes many with full time jobs from attending?

  9. A majority of the advertised ‘drop-ins’ have been cancelled due to covid measures. Does GHA accept that it should extend the consultation period to give the promised opportunity for tenants to air their views and ask questions?

  10. On attending repeated drop-ins, those GHA staff present have been unable to answer seemingly simple questions. What was the purpose of these sessions if nobody is present who can answer tenants’ questions?

Rehousing

  1. How does the Wheatley Group intend to re-home tenants in a place ‘matching their individual needs and circumstances’ when we know there are no other Wheatley group properties that are a) as close to the city centre b) one bedroom/bedsit and c) at the same or lower cost?

  2. Will there now be a major impact on the already long wating lists for social housing in Glasgow?

  3. Since Linzi Heggie says flats are easily available and we can all be rehoused here if we want, why has GHA not listed any available one-bedroom flats in Wyndford, Maryhill, Ruchill or even Summerston in the last three months?

Regeneration

  1. GHA claims the blocks “would be impossible to convert into the type and quality housing people have the right to expect and demand”. On what reports is this claim based?

  2. What mixture of housing does GHA envision for the ‘regenerated’ Wyndford? Are there guarantees it will be affordable to current residents of the 26 story blocks?

  3. How are we to form an opinion on regeneration when such scant information on the regeneration has been provided?

  4. What guarantees are there that this is not the same empty promises that were given in the Butney, Collina Street, and Hamiltonhill where social housing is being replaced by private?

The Hub

  1. On what basis are GHA involved in the ‘regeneration’ of The Hub, a council property?

  2. What discussions have been had with GCC about this?

  3. The map presented at The Hub suggests the “New Housing Development Area” includes what is currently the Maryhill Hub. Should we take this to mean that space currently given to the community centre will be housing?

Promotion of the stigma towards the blocks and their residents

  1. GHA claims “high rates of turnover” and “low occupancy” in the 26-story blocks. What efforts have been made to reduce turnover and increase occupancy?

  2. Does GHA acknowledge that the high rates of turnover are due to the flats being used as transitory accommodation for asylum seekers.

  3. Does GHA acknowledge that there are many long-term (up to 41years) residents in the tower blocks?

  4. Does GHA acknowledge that there are many tenants who intended to become long term residents?

  5. Does GHA accept that, in the context of high housing pressure across Glasgow, any ‘low-occupancy’ is because they have failed their duty to provide housing to those in need?

  6. The provided booklet says “a key element of the regeneration plans is obviously the demolition of the old multi-story blocks”. Why is this ‘obvious’? Does GHA accept that this plays into the stigma held towards the flats by some other Wyndford residents?

  7. Have GHA done Equality Impact Assessments on the plans to demolish the blocks? If so what was the outcome?

  8. It is a concern among current residents of the blocks that, in the time leading up to their demolition, they will be left unmaintained and living conditions will be left to deteriorate. Can GHA promise that repairs and planned improvements (such as promised bathroom refurbishments) will still take place, and flats will be filled rather than left empty?

Costings and environment

  1. GHA claim it would be “very difficult, or impossible, to make [the 26-story blocks] energy-efficient”. What is the basis for this claim?

  2. What Environmental Impact Assessments have taken place, and how do the emissions associated with demolition and rebuilding compare to the emissions associated with renovation of the existing structures?

  3. Why must their demolition be a condition for better access to active travel routes? Why has GHA made no efforts to provide, for example, cycle parking for existing residents in the 26 story blocks?

Financial compensation

The sum of £1500 was offered as displacement compensation to tenants of demolished social housing in the early 2000s. Why is this the same amount now being offered in 2022 with no account made for inflation?

#LinziHeggieGlasgowHousingAssociation #GlasgowHousingAssociation #CubeHousingAssocation #WyndfordHighFlats #maryhill #glasgow #SocialCleansing #landlordism #gentrification #SocialHousing #classism #ScottishBlogs

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Yesterday, Linzi Heggie, Locality Housing Director at Glasgow Housing Association, admitted that the “consultation” with tenants as to whether the Wyndford high flats should be demolished will make no difference to the outcome.

Every household in the Wyndford, not just residents of the four tower blocks, but all tenants and homeowners in the area, has been sent a ballot on which they can vote on whether the buildings should be demolished. But, at a meeting with tenants at the Maryhill Hub, Ms Heggie was surprisingly candid about the outcome.

Norman Cunningham, a tenant who will lose his home in the demolition, asked Ms Heggie what would happen if residents voted against the plan. She repeated, twice, that most residents supported it. Mr Cunningham repeated his question, asking what would happen if most residents opposed the demolition. “Would it be stopped?” he asked.

“We would work with people to assess their needs,” Ms Heggie said.

I asked if this meant the demolition would go ahead no matter what. “We will talk to people about where they want to live after,” she said.

It was a rare moment of honesty for Ms Heggie that day. She was there with a housing officer supposedly to answer tenants’ questions about the “bright new dawn for the Wyndford.” But she ignored most questions, and simply repeated lines from the brochure GHA sent to tenants. It was hardly different from a recording being played.

She said everyone would be rehoused in the location, and type of house, they wanted. Mr Cunningham said he wanted to continue to live in a high flat in the Wyndford. “We’ve got high flats here,” Ms Heggie said. It was only when pressed that she admitted the flats were all occupied, but she said she expected there to be turnover. Enough turnover to rehouse more than 600 households? “Not everybody will want to stay in the Wyndford, or in high flats,” she said. She said the turnover rate in the high flats is 20%, while in the other blocks it is 7%.

Members of Wyndford Tenants’ Union and Living Rent have suggested that GHA’s plan is about gentrification, and that the new builds planned for the space currently occupied by the high flats will be unaffordable to the people who live there now. It was clear from Ms Heggie’s evasiveness that this is the case.

In response to questions from Sam Sharp, who emphasised that it is important to him to be near the city centre, as he works delivering food by bicycle, Ms Heggie said she could not promise that he would be rehoused in the Wyndford in a home with rent comparable to the one he is being kicked out of, but that there would be such flats available in other parts of the city. “So, you’re just going to keep moving us farther and farther out,” said Mr Sharp. Ms Heggie had no reply.

Another tenant asked how many new homes would be built. Ms Heggie said she did not know, and would not know until after a land evaluation. Asked whether the new homes would be social or private housing, she said it would be a mix, but did not give details. She said that tenants who want to live in high flats should consider Drumchapel or Knightswood, neither of which is near Maryhill, never mind the Wyndford, and far from central Glasgow. “You can take the bus into the city,” she said.

She asked a tenant if they had sent in their vote yet. The tenant said no, and Ms Heggie tried to convince them to cast their vote right then and there. “You can do it with us, today,” she said. The tenant declined, saying they needed more information.

But, by Ms Heggie’s own admission, it is clear that it does not matter how tenants vote. If the vote supports GHA’s proposal to demolish, GHA will demolish. If the vote rejects GHA’s proposal to demolish, GHA will demolish. The “consultation” is only a clumsy performance. The decision has been made, and its announcement in February 2022 is only a formality. The evictions will happen 9 or 12 months later, according to Ms Heggie.

“GHA cares, and will relocate you wherever you want,” Ms Heggie kept saying. A few people laughed, but not in amusement.

Linzi Heggie was Head of Housing Services at Cube Housing Association, before Cube was acquired by GHA, so it seems likely that this plan has been in place for a long time, and was part of the acquisition deal. When this was suggested to her, Ms Heggie said nothing. When Norman Cunningham compared it to the demolition of social housing on Collina Street and the Butney, and the subsequent selling off of the sites for private housing, she said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

invitation to a public meeting on December 4 2021 at 1pm outside the Maryhill Hub to protest GHA's demolition of 600 homes

#LinziHeggieGlasgowHousingAssociation #WyndfordHighFlats #maryhill #glasgow #GlasgowHousingAssocation #CubeHousingAssociation #gentrification #landlordism #SocialHousing #SocialCleansing #classism #WyndfordTenantsUnion #LivingRent #ScottishBlogs

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Wyndord tower block, sunset

Three days ago, on Monday morning, I learned that Glasgow Housing Association plans to destroy the community I live in.

This explains why neither Cube Housing Assocation, nor its new owner, GHA, has cleaned the tower blocks in Wyndford for many months, while still cleaning the other buildings in the scheme, as I have reported here. On hearing the news, my wife, daishin, said: “I think GHA's lack of cleaning, building maintenance, and the continued lack of repairs in the high flats is a strategic move to make tenants want to leave the Wyndford.”

On Tuesday, members of Wynford Tenants’ Union, residents of the blocks that are to be demolished, held a meeting, outdoors, to decide what to do.

On Wednesday, I was interviewed by Glasgow West End Today about our plans. The article is a refreshing corrective to the one published in the Glasgow Times, which is effectively an ad for GHA.

GHA’s brochure is a work of weird fiction. The reality is that the four blocks of high flats are populated by a wonderful, diverse community. There are people who have lived here for decades, people who have lived here for years (like me), and people who have been here a short time and will move on soon. There are people of all ages, and more nationalities than I can keep track of. The reputation for criminality is mostly mythical. When we were offered our flat in 2017, I asked the housing officer how dangerous it really was. Her answer: “Nothing will happen to you here that couldn’t happen to you in Bearsden.” She was correct. What I was not prepared for, though, was the warmth and grace daishin and I have found here.

Bizarrely, GHA is letting everyone who lives in Wyndford, not just tenants of the high flats, but all tenants, and homeowners, vote on the fate of our flats. How would you feel if everyone in your neighbourhood was allowed to vote to evict you from your home, whether they knew anything about you or not?

GHA will soon learn the truth about the people who have made our homes in the buildings they are describing as “low demand” and “low occupancy.” We will support one another, and we will not go easily or quietly.

#wyndford #maryhill #glasgow #GlasgowHousingAssocation #CubeHousingAssociation #gentrification #landlordism #SocialHousing #SocialCleansing #DaishinStephenson #ScottishBlogs

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Filthy cotton bud on stair

I feel a strange sentimental attachment to this filthy cotton bud.

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Martin Armstrong

Cube Housing Assocation has a poster with the slogan Put Rent First. This inspired Wyndford Tenants' Union to create a poster of our own. Martin Armstrong, chief executive of the Wheatley Group, which owns Glasgow Housing Association, which Cube is now part of, isn't having to choose between rent, electricity, or food.

#martinarmstrong #cubehousingassociation #glasgowhousingassociation #wheatleygroup #landlordism #capitalism #socialhousing #wyndfordtenantsunion #livingrent

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In this post, I said it was disappointing that no SNP leaders attended the Vigil for the Valley in protest of Glasgow City Council's selling off a former social housing site to private bidders.

Today, Patrick Grady, MP for Glasgow North, responded:

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Photo: Babs Nicgriogair

Despite unfriendly weather, there was a good turnout for today's Vigil for the Valley in protest of the sell-off of land previously used for social housing.

Disappointingly, no SNP leaders attended, but Keiran O'Neill, Scottish Labour and Co-operative candidate for Maryhill and Springburn, did. He said, “The strength of feeling in the wider residents of the local community is very clear. There was over 30 people attending the safe, socially distant demonstration that Living Rent and Wyndford's Tenant Union organised.”

Read Glasgow Live's report here.

Photo: Nick Durie

#wyndfordtenantsunion #glasgow #collinastreet #maryhill #stillgame #landlordism #buytolet #socialhousing #keiranoneill #scottishblogs

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Today Living Rent launched our Tenants' Manifesto. There were speeches from Meg Bishop, Nick Durie, Annemarie Craig, Nicky Patterson, Angela McCormack, and me. We discussed each of the manifesto's five demands, and then there was a varied question-and-answer section. This, of course, was all online.

#livingrent #wyndfordtenantsunion #socialhousing #publichousing #rentcontrol #glasgow #scottishblogs

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