Tenants in the Glasgow suburb of Maryhill are organising a campaign of resistance to rent hikes being imposed on them by Queens Cross Housing Association.
Queens Cross is one of the largest providers of social housing in Glasgow, with around 4,500 properties across the north west of the city. The housing association has come in for stark criticism after announcing a 4.6% rent hike for tenants staying in the Cedar Court high flats.
This latest increase follows a 4.5% rent rise last year. This back-to-back increase over two years is especially hard on many tenants who are being hit hard by increases in fuel bills, the bedroom tax and a public sector pay freeze.
Residents also complain that much vaunted improvements to the fabric of the flats and the surrounding area have failed to materialise.
Residents I spoke to complained of damp flats, highly inefficient and expensive heating systems and lifts prone to breaking down.
Mark Rooney, a resident in Cedar Court for 10 years, complained bitterly that Queens Cross had repeatedly failed to deliver on promised improvements since taking over ownership of the blocks from Glasgow Housing Association. Mark, who is registered blind and in receipt of disability benefit, says he faces having to decide between heating his flat and spending money on food.
Mark’s neighbour, Alice Coy, works as a nurse. She explained to me how these pressures, combined with a perceived lack of consultation from the housing association, spurred the residents to begin a campaign against the rent rises.
Alice described how she and other tenants had gone door to door across the entire estate to organise resistance to the rent hikes.
In a couple of weeks of hard work a group of local activists have organised a petition of 600 signatures which they presented to the Queens Cross management during a demonstration outside their offices on Friday afternoon.
They have also manufactured banners condemning the rent hikes which, wind allowing, are being displayed from the balconies of all three high rise blocks. Activists have also translated material into Chinese and Polish in order to get their message across to tenants from these communities.
The campaigners are dedicated to fighting the rent hikes and improving their area, but they also hope that the spirit of solidarity and unity of purpose that they have shared during the campaign will lead to improvements in other areas of life for people in the area.
As Alice put it, “We are gaining a better feeling of community. We feel like we know each other better and we can look after each other and help each other out with other things.”
In the short time the campaign has been running they have done a great job of raising awareness and garnering support, both within the estate and across the rest of the city. If anybody would like to get involved they should contact Alice via the campaign’s web page.