Living Rent celebrates official launch of Glasgow tenants’ union

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Glasgow branch of the Living Rent tenants’ union was officially launched on Saturday at the Pearce Institute in the city.

Union members and the public gathered to give testimony of their experiences of renting, to take inspiration from other tenants’ rights groups and to discuss ambitions for the future.

The event took place, fittingly, in a hall named after Mary Barbour, a prominent leader in the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association and the Glasgow rent strikes of 1915.

Roz Irvine, a Living Rent member, spoke about the power of Barbour’s legacy 100 years on.

She said: “I think about these ordinary women. If they could do it, so can we. I know it’s scary to stand up to your landlord or housing association, but are we supposed to sit back and do nothing?”

Pinar Aksu, a community development worker, also addressed the room, bringing attention to the substandard conditions faced by refugees in the city: “We’ve had reports of families with children living in one room. That’s their bedroom, their bathroom, their kitchen.

“It’s important that we work together. We are not each other’s enemies. The enemies are the companies trying to make as much money as they can from us even if that means making our lives very difficult.”

Members also gathered in groups to discuss their hopes for the tenants’ union and their motivations for organising. Some expressed concern about ballooning rents, while others mentioned unsafe conditions due to long waiting periods for urgent repairs. For others, the motivation was for a cultural change around renting.

Rebecca Chan, a member from Edinburgh, said: “I’d like to see a future for renters where you can make a house a home, where you can put things on the walls and not worry about losing your deposit. Now, you don’t feel like you’re there to put roots down, you’re just there to pay off somebody else’s mortgage.”

Anna Pearce, a member and Mount Florida resident, added: “The current relationship between landlords and tenants is patronising. They treat you like naughty children. They treat you like you’re an inconvenience.”

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