Houses, homes and repressive housing policies. Where is it leading us?

“The housing crises is an active agent of repression and as been since Thatchers time. Where the working class activities that couldn’t be suppressed were commercialised.” Stefan Szczelkum.

Part of that he is talking about is the present obsession of owning a house. And the entrenchment of many in the working classes to become a cog in the commercialisation process. Rather than becoming part of a movement working to curb Thatchers neoliberal legacy. Instead many are inadvertently working to maintain it. By placing their future and trust in the hands of banks.

When people lived in council houses with controlled rent. One of the lesser things they worried about was being evicted or being made homeless. How many can say that today, particularly when they are paying a mortgage in a housing market that’s prices have gone through the roof.

Back in the day your secured tenancy in a council home was much the same as everyone else’s. Your problems were much the same as your neighbours. That is until the arrival of Margaret Thatcher and the neoliberal project. Which basically meant. Forget your solidarity, and sticking together. Now we live, she could have suggested under the neoliberal motto of. “Everything is for us and nothing for you.” Continue reading

Occupy 1. Think locally act globally.


The course of the industrial revolution should have taught us how materially finite the worlds resources are. The information revolution should have helped us to relieve the pressure on these resources. Instead it is been used to squeeze the last wee bit of toothpaste from the tube, till all we are left with is the plastic. But one of the things we do have in abundance is imagination. We can either use it, as up to now, in imagining a technological savour is going to appear and tell us everything will be ok, and carry on regardless. Or we can use it as part of a human plan in endeavours that we know are right, achievable and on our own doorstep. Continue reading

More on the nature of the beast.


In answer to the kind of stupid and irresponsible Yes/no questionnaires such as the one relating to demolition and regeneration in the Wyndford estate Maryhill Glasgow

The beast here refers to any kind of agency private or otherwise that is a threat to public agency and the common good. The common good being that which we own, institutions and assets in the collective public interest. Continue reading

“Still Game For The Valley” campaign

The place known as the valley in Maryhill was an area of council housing that was demolished and lay vacant for many years. At present it serves as a dynamic open space with an excellent views all round. The council have now decided, without consultation to sell it off for private development. We believe the site should be used for affordable social housing of which the city is badly in need off. This privatisation is part of a process being carried out all over the city, and accelerated during a pandemic in the rush to push these kinds of developments through. The “Still Game For The Valley” campaign was set up by Living Rent to challenge this proposal and to halt this sale of public land till proper consultation, and alternative plans can be heard.

More details an be found on Still Game For The Valley Facebook page. The following statements are from the recent vigil in the valley

Living Rent – Join today –

James tells hist story of living in The Valley.

Zen Buddhist monk and celebrated author Dogo Sensei tells his story of growing up in the community and his return to Maryhill after years living abroad, and what this development means for him.

Emma tells her story of living in The Valley.

Calls for unity

Keiran O’Neill Labour and coop candidate speaking at “Still game for the Valley” vigil


Valley chant. Stop the sale chant it loud!

The Sleeping Giants of Potential Political Power.


The 1970s Neoliberal’s unleashed growth, promised a reduction in the gap between rich and poor. The little boats would rise in the tide with the bigger boats. (Thatcher) It would widen democracy, destroy violent and vicious nationalism–a new renaissance. We are now in the most negative nationalist period since the 1930s with all the danger that goes with it. Our shores are littered with pollution and the wreckage of little boats that did not rise in the tide with the big boats but were destroyed in the wake of the ever rising tide of neoliberalism. (Analysis news) Continue reading

From Glasgow to LA. In the struggle for decent housing.

Capitalist money making factories like Govanhill generating wealth at the cost of the health of tenants who have a single focus of paying rent to keep a roof over their head at the cost of disengagement from public life and sustainability of their own lives.

These are the abstractions people are living within. There can be no creativity, innovation, sense of agency nor vision of a happy future when being forced to live under the yoke of indentured neoliberal policy. These processes under the neoliberal project become international.

The combined legacy of Reagan and Thatcher has a counter weight in the struggle of those who have been fighting the effects of their  “special relationship” for a long time. The same ‘special relationship” we see in Trump and May. Maybe time to renew our own special relationships with our brothers and sisters abroad in the Struggle for A Just Economy and in creating a wider solidarity.

Andrea Gibbons is a writer, academic and activist, Who has spent many years of activism in Los Angeles, London, Manchester and for a time in Glasgow, around housing campaigns and racism.

As well as her written work she is a full time activist, and has much to say about strategy and organising to win things. What has Glasgow to learn from L.A? Come along and find out. We will have the pleasure of her company and experience in a talk/workshop

‘I lived in Glasgow for a year. I was thinking a focus on the civil rights campaigns and housing struggle would be most useful, drawing out lessons for the UK.”

Kinning Park on Friday May the 3rd at 7:00 – 9:00 Free

Michael Byrne: Organizing Tenants

The financial crisis of 2008 was not just a crisis of the global economy but also a crisis of the “home ownership dream.” The bursting of the debt bubble has placed the possibility of owning a home beyond the reach of an entire generation. In the US, the UK, Ireland, Spain and many countries affected by the financial crash, renting is on the rise for the first time in a century. This is much more than a shift in housing tenures; it represents a shift in the politics of housing.[expand title=”trigger more text”]

Rent increases and evictions have become key issues and even the standard of accommodation and overcrowding, in a throwback to the early decades of the twentieth century, are major challenges. The shift to renting means that more wealth is being transferred from low-income households to wealthy investors, where the former have no possibility for the formation of housing wealth through ownership and the latter are increasingly driven by financialized dynamics. The inequality at stake here is not just about wealth: renters typically have weak rights in terms of security of tenure and the regulation of rents, and as such evictions, frequent moves and abysmal quality properties are the norm.

From individual crisis to collective organizing

Against this backdrop, a new generation of grassroots organizations are emerging to challenge landlords and government and to organize tenants. Three such organizations set up in recent years are:

  • Living Rent (LR), a Scottish tenant organization with branches in a number of cities. It was established in 2014 and has recently expanded into a national union of tenants.
  • The Dublin Tenants Association (DTA), in which I participate. It describes itself as a space for tenants to come together to fight for their right to housing. It was established in late 2014 as a volunteer, tenant-led group. The association engages in peer-support, campaigning and advocacy.
  • The London Renters Union (LRU), a soon-to-be-launched project created by a number of London housing groups with the intention of fighting “for a fair deal for renters and to build the power we need to transform our housing system.”

These organizations are developing new ways of responding to the growing conflict between tenants and landlords and between housing as a right and housing as a financialized asset. They aim to become more than radical activist groups, but rather to organize tenants en masse and to change the structural conditions and policies which condemn tenants to a life of high rents, frequent evictions and low-quality housing.

All the organizations mentioned above are involved in collective action in response to individual issues, in particular rent increases, evictions and poor housing standards. This involves providing information about tenants’ rights, negotiating with landlords, media campaigns targeting specific landlords and taking legal cases. For tenant organizers this is about tenants working together to fight for their rights, rather than charity.

Renting can be an isolating and individualizing experience. The only time a tenant is likely to reach out to others is during a particular moment of crisis, such as a rent increase or eviction. These moments provide the possibility to de-individualize the experience of renting, but also to politicize that experience by showing that by working together tenants can change their reality.

Yet this kind of “case work” brings its own challenges — and not just in terms of the considerable resources it requires. It risks drifting into a kind of charity-based service provision and even produce a dynamic whereby the activist becomes a kind of housing rights expert, with the tenant passively receiving their help. This is something tenant organizations are currently negotiating. The challenge is to find a way of organizing that collectivizes and politicizes individual experiences in a way that strengthens agency.

Campaigning for change

Behind these individual experiences are wider social structures that perpetuate the conditions tenants face. If these structures are not challenged the individual crises they give rise to will be reproduced indefinitely. Renters in the private sector, unlike homeowners and social-housing tenants, have extremely limited rights on all fronts, and the sector has been subject to deep deregulation. The result is that the rental sector is the “wild west” of the housing system, peppered with irrational and dysfunctional policies that even the febrile mind of the most fundamentalist neoliberal would struggle to defend.

Living Rent emerged as a national tenants’ organization in response to a consultation opened by the Scottish government in relation to security of tenure. In common with England and Wales, Scotland had one of the weakest forms of security of tenure in Europe. The inclusion of “no fault evictions” meant that tenants enjoyed effectively zero security. LR used this opportunity to engage with tenants, to shape debate and discourse around tenants’ rights and to impact on policy change.

Their main tactic was to set up street stalls and go “door-knocking” to engage tenants, inform them of the consultation and encourage them to make a submission to the consultation process. They designed a postcard addressed to the relevant government department, which tenants could fill out. At the end of the process, Living Rent delivered sacks full of the postcard submissions to the consultation process. The focus of LR’s campaign was on security of tenure including ending “no fault evictions” and securing long-term security for tenants. However, rent levels, which were not originally included within the consultation process, were also raised by LR, and their campaign included a demand for rent controls.

The Dublin Tenants Association, meanwhile, also conducted a campaign for rent controls and security of tenure in the context of a government consultation process in 2016. Tenants were asked to take photos of themselves holding a placard stating the impact of high rents on their lives and share them on social media. This was the first time, at least in recent decades, that tenants have featured as an organized and public voice in debates about housing.

The campaigns conducted by LR and the DTA met with a surprising level of success. Particularly in the case of LR, policy reforms were introduced that far exceeded what might have been anticipated. Indefinite security of tenure was introduced and regulation of rent increases, which was initially not even included in the policy agenda, was also introduced. A form of rent control has also been introduced in Ireland, as well as moderate reforms to security of tenure, although this was a result of a concerted campaign by a variety of civil society actors, in particular housing charities, and cannot solely be attributed to the DTA.

Successes and challenges

A number of factors help explain the effectiveness of these campaigns. Firstly, both DTA and LR achieved a very effective and informed engagement with policy. This has also been a strength of Generation Rent, one of the constituent groups of the London Renters Union. In critiquing current policy and developing alternatives, examples from other European countries were also important. For example, both DTA and LR were able to point to data from countries such as Denmark and Austria to show that tight regulation of rent increases is compatible with adequate supply of rental accommodation.

A second theme is effective engagement with the media. This is enormously facilitated by a firm understanding of policy detail, which makes possible credible arguments and proposals but also allows activists to combat anti-tenant perspectives. Media work was further facilitated by the fact that none of these countries have heretofore had organizations representing or advocating for tenants as a specific social group (at least not in recent decades). This created a vacuum that tenant organizations could fill.

Tenant organizations have furthermore developed a language to speak from a tenants’ perspective, reflecting the experiences of tenants but also articulating “tenants” as specific social actors and as a collective. Creating this sense of collectivity is a specific goal of tenant organizations to counter the individualizing nature of renting. The DTA, for example, set out from the beginning to develop a language through which to speak to and for tenants, based closely on their experiences rather than relying on a traditional left-wing discourse to produce a readymade critique of the rental sector. This is not just a case of “representing tenants” and communicating with them, but a case of speaking as tenants.

There are, however, a number of challenges in campaigning for renters’ rights. There is a danger of falling into a representational politics in which tenants become almost a “consumer group,” whose interests need to be factored into the policy process. This depoliticizes the fundamental antagonism between renters and landlords, and between a home as a right and as a speculative asset. It also potentially divides tenants in the private rental sector from those in social housing.

Furthermore, there are class divisions and other forms of stratification operating within the rental sector. This is typically ignored by media reports, which tend to focus on a “generation rent” consisting exclusively of “young professionals.” Minorities, migrants and female-headed households are very significantly over-represented within the rental sector, but may be underrepresented in tenant organizations. The London Renters Union has paid particular attention to this issue and organized extensive engagement designed to create an inclusive organization that is led by the different social groups that make up renters.

Unionizing and organizing tenants

Of the three organizations discussed here, two have established themselves as tenants unions, meaning they have a fee-paying membership structure. Tenants formally join the union, pay monthly due, are able to participate in decision-making, and are eligible for support such as legal advice.

The power of the union model is that it can combine and strengthen both casework and campaigning, the two principal forms of action which tenant organizations are already engaged in, and as such achieve the kind of mass-scale required to bring about structural change. In particular, a fee-paying membership creates independent revenue, which allows for hiring paid staff. LR and the LRU both view paid staff as a prerequisite for organizing effectively on a mass scale, and have either already hired staff or are in the process of doing so.

The DTA is more agnostic about the benefits of a somewhat professionalized structure. Indeed, all of the organizations are concerned about the political questions at stake in creating a well-structured union with paid staff, and this will no doubt be a challenge to be confronted — and hopefully overcome — as the organizations develop.

The DTA, LR and LRU are certainly not the only grassroots tenant organizations springing up across Europe. Acorn, the grassroots “community union,” is organizing around tenants’ rights in a number of English cities, and renters’ unions have recently been launched in both Barcelona and Madrid. The proliferation of these groups tells us something important about how the politics of housing is changing today. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the focus among many researchers and activists was on the issue of housing debt and the associated forms of social conflict and activism. Mortgage arrears and repossession have been important political issues in Ireland and the United States, but most significantly for the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) in Spain.

However, new banking regulation and more stringent credit standards coupled with declining wages and job security make accessing mortgages increasingly difficult. Today, the principal drivers of housing inequality are not excessive debt levels but exclusion from access to credit and homeownership. As households find themselves increasingly relegated to the rental sector for life, and with social housing continuing its decline, the types of issues which dominated “the housing question” in the early twentieth century have returned to prominence: rent increases, evictions, overcrowding rack-renting, and so on.

Political and social conditions today are, however, markedly different. The tenant organizations of the past typically organized in locally concentrated, neighborhood-based working-class communities characterized by relatively high levels of homogeneity and well-formed social networks. Much like the situation faced in precarious workplaces, today’s tenant organizers confront a highly fragmented and individualized rental sector. The challenge, then, is not just to mobilize tenants but to create a shared sense of being a tenant in the first place, as well as the social relations, forms of discourse and shared culture of organizing and political practice required to sustain any successful movement.

Michael Byrne is co-director of the MSc in Equality Studies at University College Dublin and is an activist with the Dublin Tenants Association. Article Zmag[/expand]