November 30, 2011
Safeguarding the rights of private tenants
The national demand for affordable housing has long outstripped supply. Funding pressures faced by housing associations mean that they’re in no position to ease the pressure. And for those that aspire to buy, the market for first time buyers is proving depressingly difficult. All this means that more and more people are forced into the private rental sector. Mounting concern at the lack of effective regulation of private landlords has prompted a grassroots response in Glasgow
We will establish the ‘Glasgow Private Rental Sector (PRS) Working Group’, a community based representative organisation which will challenge several aspects of Scottish national policy on the Private Rental Sector (PRS) and examine alternative methods for delivering services in a more co-ordinated fashion in the city. There has been much muttering and hand-wringing with few practical ideas. Such is the impact of poorly regulated PRS in some areas of Glasgow that residents are extremely worried and it is no exaggeration to say it challenges social cohesion. Areas like Govanhill are well-known but similar problems exist across the city from Dennistoun in the east to Cardonald in the west. A public meeting in Cardonald in August, called to discuss the local issue, was attended by 450 people from different Glasgow neighbourhoods. The Working Group will be an apolitical, community-led response to address these the way the Council delivers services to the PRS in relation to issues such as enforcement of planning/licensing decisions, response to anti-social behaviour, landlord registration and compliance.
Is Glasgow City too big an area to manage responses to what are effectively neighbourhood problems?
A straw poll of residents flagged up the following challenges/responses:-
- Glasgow City Council’s recent ‘Rogue Landlord’ initiative seems a knee-jerk reaction to the problems and offers no practical solutions. As examples of barriers to success we can cite lack of enforcement resources, actual fines levied much lower than prescribed, reluctance of fiscal to prosecute, reluctance of council to prosecute because fines do not offset costs, council decisions not to prosecute despite clear breaches of planning law.
- Is the justice system adequate? What happened to the 2004 CIH report on Housing Courts and alternatives?
- Is the Landlord Registration Scheme operating effectively? The council’s own figures show this to be patchy and a critical report from SG highlights its shortcomings.
- Like social housing, is there a need for a national regulator for the PRS to set standards and monitor local councils’ performance?
- Why is there no coordination between social and private rented housing policy? Recent data suggests growth in the PRS. In practice many locations in Glasgow include a mix of social and private housing so reluctance to deal with the problem in a unified way nullifies any good intentions.
We want the new group not just to be critical but to study the problem from a community perspective and to propose solutions. To do so, we need to commission research into alterative models and to challenge the orthodoxy of current legislation. Representation on SG’s Private Rented Sector Group is skewed towards civil servants and large organisations who, presumably, ‘know best’. Community representation is limited to a virtual group who can comment but not contribute. The proposed work programme up to March 2012 leaves no room for any radical suggestions from the community perspective .
o When will it kick off?
Within four weeks with a public meeting at Govanhill Housing Association.
o One of the key issues is the failure to regulate private housing as conscientiously as social housing and the GHA agrees• Why is this urgent?
PRS is growing in importance. The amount of public cash devoted to new social housing is limited and cannot meet existing demand. Add to this increased demand from the bigger number of households, inability of young couples to buy their own starter home, likely casualties from repossessions. The SG seems to believe a laissez-faire approach will suffice.
o Can we produce the evidence ie pictures, detailed statements and interviews with people from across the city?
We believe we can cite ‘hundreds’ of examples where the council has not met its obligations. We are in touch with experts and hope we can use their expertise to launch some original work financed by charitable trusts such as Joseph Rowntree. Beyond this, the intention would be to sponsor new legislation within the life of this parliament.
30th November 2011