Reidvale members reject Places for People Scotland transfer

Reidvale members reject Places for People Scotland transfer

Members of Reidvale Housing Association have voted to reject the proposed transfer of engagements with Places for People Scotland.

At a Special General Meeting held on Monday night, 138 shareholders voted to back continued community ownership with 70 supporting the transfer.

Dennistoun’s Reidvale Housing Association was founded in 1975 following a grassroots campaign, led by the late John Butterly MBE, to halt the demolition of the tenements south of Duke Street. It now is responsible for around 900 homes.

Stating concerns about governance and investment, the board decided in 2022 to seek a partner to take over the association, its tenancies, properties and staff. A tenant ballot held late last year saw 61.8% of respondents vote in favour of a proposal to transfer their homes to Place for People Scotland.

However, the transfer was not without its critics. MSPs raised concerns that the ballot process was being presented as a foregone conclusion and were worried about the potential loss of local accountability and community assets being controlled by a large organisation.

The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) initially bemoaned the loss of a successful community-controlled association and later described the transfer process as a “farce”.

Reidvale itself pointed to a campaign of “misinformation” by “individuals from outside the area” and instead highlighted the “positive changes” the transfer would have brought to tenants and the wider community.

Included in the transfer offer was a commitment to a five-year rent freeze (compared to the 10% a year increases planned by Reidvale), £13.7 million investment over that time to improve the quality of housing and the environment and a host of other improvements in local services.

Reidvale said at the time of the tenant ballot it would have had no ability to deliver any of this if it stayed independent - something that was confirmed by the Tenants Information Service, the independent tenant adviser to Reidvale tenants.

Ahead of the Special General Meeting, a campaign group of Reidvale tenants and owners, elected officials, Dennistoun residents and supporters of community-owned housing associations was formed to ask members to vote against the proposal.

The group further highlighted the positive performance of Reidvale in most measurements set out by the Scottish Housing Regulator and, while conceding that Reidvale was not managed perfectly, concluded that any issues could be resolved by professional senior staff and management committee members working together with the community.

Paul Sweeney, a Labour MSP in Glasgow who raised the issue with the Scottish Parliament Housing Committee when it heard from the Scottish Housing Regulator, welcomed the outcome of the shareholders vote.

“It is fantastic that Reidvale Housing Association shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected the takeover by Places for People,” he told Scottish Housing News.

“Reidvale residents saw through the shabby offer put forward by the London-based housing group and opted to protect the community control of the Dennistoun housing association.

“This must be the end of any attempt to transfer the 900 properties with an estimated market value well in excess of £100 million into the hands of a profit-driven mega-housing group and it should serve as the moment to realise the vast potential that comes with community ownership.

“We can now move forward with a new management committee under residents’ control to build a new business plan centred on community ownership, advancing the strong base of the housing association.

“The Scottish Housing Regulator must respect the members’ desires and assist in securing the future of Reidvale Housing Association as community-owned.

“Community spirit is alive and well in Glasgow.”

The Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations said the events proved that good customer service and community control were highly regarded.

GWSF chair John Hamilton said: “As an obvious supporter and promoter of local community control, GWSF welcomes the 2 to 1 decision of Reidvale’s members not to ratify the outcome of the tenant ballot.

“We recognise many of the concerns expressed by members, including the impending loss of community assets and the inevitable disappearance of local decision making. The relative closeness of the separate tenant ballot, with less than 62% in favour, compared with the usual 90%+ yes vote in previous transfers, was a clear sign of the anxiety and uncertainty felt by many tenants despite the promise of a five-year rent freeze.

“The outcome was perhaps a signal that good customer service and being able to have a real say mean everything to people. A large organisation can bring financial muscle and the promise of big investment, but if tenants have concerns about service quality and issues around respect for people, this is likely to influence their feelings about the real benefits of transfer.

“We hope there will now be a period of engagement, reflection and review. There are issues needing resolved at Reidvale, but the opportunity is there to reconsider how these can be addressed and what the achievable options might be.

“Working in partnership with other associations, as locally as possible, will always be an option any association can explore for any aspect of its business. Such partnerships can come in many forms, including buying in services. It should only exceptionally be a case of the status quo versus takeover.

“With no tenant consultation prior to the original decision to seek a transfer, many tenants and members have said they never felt they were asked meaningfully about any options other than takeover by a huge UK landlord. There’s now the chance to take a more balanced and constructive approach.”

Places for People Scotland said the best interests of the Reidvale tenants were always at the forefront of its plans.

Katie Smart, director for Places for People Scotland, said: “The history of Reidvale Housing Association is something we have huge respect for as well as the clear passion shown locally for affordable housing.

“What has always been most important for us, and always will be, is what’s best for the tenants, including affordable and sustainable rents, ensuring homes get the crucial investment they need whilst people have the support they need from a local housing team.

“The commitments we have made to Reidvale tenants and wider community is why we received the support of tenants in the ballot. We remain interested in being the ones to do this, but we note the result of the shareholders’ vote, and it is for the Reidvale management committee to now agree a way forward.

“We will still support the Reidvale Neighbourhood Centre in partnership with Bluevale and I am excited to continue our work together. Community is what Places for People Scotland is, and will always be, about.”

The Scottish Housing Regulator said Reidvale must now show how it will address its governance and financial management weaknesses and comply with all of its obligations.

A spokesperson said: “Reidvale does not comply with regulatory requirements and the Regulatory Standards of Governance and Financial Management. Reidvale had concluded that it was in the best interests of its tenants to seek a transfer of engagements to a Registered Social Landlord which met these requirements and standards. The majority of tenants who voted in a ballot of all Reidvale’s tenants supported the proposed transfer to Places for People Scotland.

“However, Reidvale did not secure the two-thirds of voting shareholders that its constitution requires to approve the outcome of the ballot of its tenants, and on that basis it cannot proceed with the transfer of engagements to Places for People Scotland. Reidvale must now provide us with a clear plan for how it will address the serious weaknesses it has and so comply with all of its legislative and regulatory obligations.”

The Reidvale management committee said it will carefully consider its future options.

A management committee stated: “Despite 62% of tenants who voted in the formal ballot saying yes to transfer, unfortunately, we did not achieve the required two thirds of shareholders voting at the special general meeting held on 15 January 2024 to approve the transfer resolution. Naturally, this is hugely disappointing and will be a blow to the many tenants who voted for change. The management committee will now meet to carefully consider the options available to secure the best future for our tenants.”

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