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February 7, 2022

Tenants stay the course

Fifty years ago the myth that local people couldn’t be trusted or didn’t have the know-how to run their own public services began to unravel as groups of tenants from across Glasgow’s inner city set about transforming the slum conditions they were being forced to live in. By creating housing cooperatives and community controlled housing associations local people began rebuilding their communities. However, running these organisations is a complex and demanding job and the sceptics believed that eventually the tenants would step away and leave it to outside professionals. Recent research highlights that quite the opposite has happened.


More than three-quarters of those on the governing bodies of community-based housing associations are local people, according to a survey by the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF).

The Forum said the research is very encouraging as a number of associations have been struggling to replace tenant members of their governing body who have retired.

In a new report, which was based on interviews with nearly half its members, GWSF found that the average proportion of tenants currently on governing bodies was 47%. Whilst there is no past figure on which to base comparisons, most associations said they were finding it more challenging to recruit tenant members.

But the proportion of local people on governing bodies was nearly 77%, suggesting that whilst some people from outwith the area are being recruited to bring specific skills and experience, a significant majority are still local.

GWSF chair Helen Moore said: “It’s a significant finding that our members have been increasingly successful in attracting a wider variety of local people onto their committees and boards, at a time when many have sometimes struggled to replace tenant members.

“To some degree it could be argued that we’re the victims of our own success: whilst much remains still to achieve, our homes and communities are generally in much better shape than they were when associations first came into being to improve things.

“Compare that obvious motivating factor with the prospect of considering whether your association’s level of covenant cover is adequate, and you can see that today’s complex financial and regulatory landscape doesn’t necessarily set the heather alight for any governing body member.

“And the inevitable need to focus on the strategic stuff and less on operational matters does mean it’s becoming a harder sell.

“But what’s really reassuring is that it’s still predominantly local people serving on our committees and boards. Supplemented by additional skills and experience from a relatively small number of people from further afield, the overall balance is looking healthy going forward.

“That said, though, our members will always be extremely keen to attract tenant members despite the challenges, as they bring a critical and unique perspective to how we provide services and support our communities.”

The report includes case study examples of bespoke training programmes and other initiatives which have led to the successful recruitment of both tenants and other local people.