Squatting in Glasgow for Affordable Housing

Ideas and Issues
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February 1, 2021

            New Orleans      Now this is interesting! The fight to increase the supply of affordable housing is made of long odds and short tempers, as private builders go for luxury rentals and condos and public authorities sell off public housing and turn a blind eye to desperate need.

I got a call the other day from the head organizer of ACORN’s affiliate in Scotland saying she had some questions about how to deal with sustaining membership activity and commitment in the long campaign over development. ACORN’s experience with cooperative housing in New York City and with housing developments from Chicago and Philadelphia to Houston and Phoenix had run the gamut, so without really understanding why she was asking, I rattled off the pros and cons, trials and tribulations, successes and near misses. Some of it may have been helpful, but who knows.

Reading the link in the Glasgow press after the call, I had a better feel for the fight. Members of our Wyndford Tenants Union are contesting the plans for an abandoned piece of property with the Glasgow Council. Our members have set up a constant presence on the property that is somewhere between a squat and a symbolic occupation. A small hut has been constructed on the property where our members rotate shifts to make sure it is constantly occupied, and they are ever vigilant. We’ve won a delay in a proposed sale, and are trying to trigger a community’s right to buy to exercise our ability to put together the deal to have the property taken over collectively to assure permanent lower income affordable and sustainable housing.

The Council is claiming that they will only sell to a private developer who will create 125 units of housing for ownership of lower income families, saying…

The low-cost home ownership properties cannot be sold to private landlords as there is strict assessment criteria for the purchaser and unless they meet this criteria (first-time buyer, income threshold and so on) they will not be permitted to purchase.

Our tenants’ union wants either social housing for tenants maintained and run by the Council or the opportunity to put together than own proposal to assure that the property ends up permanently benefiting people most need of affordable housing on an ongoing basis.

For forty years ACORN groups have squatted to make – and win – similar campaigns. Collina Street in the Maryhill community of Glasgow and their tenants’ union join a proud, fighting tradition. This is going to be a fight worth watching, even at a distance. The tinder is dry all over the world, and tenants are increasingly ready to strike the match.