Reidvale tenants approve Places for People Scotland transfer

Reidvale tenants approve Places for People Scotland transfer

Tenants of Reidvale Housing Association have backed the proposed transfer to Places for People Scotland with 61.8% voting in favour of the proposal.

The ballot was open for 32 days with 72.9% of tenants casting their vote.

Reidvale was formed in 1975 and has around 900 homes in the Dennistoun area. Stating concerns about governance and investment, the board decided to seek a partner to take over the association, its tenancies, properties and staff.

The transfer is not without its critics, however. MSPs in the area raised concerns about the process, while the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF) bemoaned the loss of a successful community-controlled association.

Reidvale itself has pointed to a campaign of “misinformation” by “individuals from outside the area” but is now looking ahead to “positive changes” the transfer will bring to tenants and the wider community.

Following a survey conducted by Reidvale of its tenants, which concluded in May, tenants supported the appointment of Places for People Scotland as the preferred transfer partner. Since that time, both housing associations have worked together to consult with Reidvale tenants and agree a business case and transfer offer shaped by tenant feedback and priorities.

Included in the transfer offer is 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 it would have had no ability to deliver any of this if it stayed independent and that this has been confirmed by the Tenants Information Service who are the independent tenant advisers to Reidvale tenants.

Earlier this month, MSPs raised concerns that the ballot process was being presented as a foregone conclusion and were concerned about the potential loss of local accountability and community assets being controlled by a large organisation.

Paul Sweeney, Glasgow Labour MSP, raised the issue with the Scottish Parliament Housing Committee when it heard from the Scottish Housing Regulator.

“The problems can be resolved and still have community control,” he said.

He added that the Association has 900 tenements in a highly desirable part of Glasgow, with no debt secured against them.

Together with Ivan McKee, Provan SNP MSP and Annie Wells, Glasgow Conservative MSP, Mr Sweeney wrote to the Regulator with concerns about the transfer process.

The MSPs noted that “no initial ballot of tenants was undertaken before a preferred transfer partner was found”.

They added: “At community events to engage with tenants about the proposed merger, signage was used with the logo of Places for People emblazoned on the literature, implying that this was an already agreed affirmative action taken.

“This is also the case with the Reidvale Housing Association website. We believe this to be coercive and manipulative.”

In response to these claims, a Places for People spokesperson said no decision was made ahead of the independent tenant ballot.

The spokesperson told the Glasgow Times: “Over the course of the last few months, we have been open and transparent with tenants and the wider community with the aim of sharing information about the investment plan, our work in Scotland and commitment to communities.”

Responding to the ballot outcome, GWSF director David Bookbinder said the 61.8% ‘Yes’ result must be viewed in the context of previous transfer votes, most of which have generated positive results by at least 90%.

Recent ballots have ranged between 88.5% of tenants voting Yes to the transfer between Pineview Housing Association and Kendoon Housing Association and 99% of Antonine Housing Association tenants voting in favour of a transfer of engagements to Caledonia Housing Association.

Mr Bookbinder said: “With Yes votes in transfer ballots normally exceeding 90%, it’s interesting to note that in this case almost 40% of voting tenants opposed the transfer despite the offer of a five-year rent freeze. It’s hardly a resounding vote of confidence.

“Had I been a tenant whose emergency repairs were currently done in an average of three hours, I too might have hesitated to vote to be taken over by a 230,000-unit landlord who took 17 hours. And it does seem unfortunate if Reidvale is referring to this kind of statistic - from SHR’s website - as ‘misinformation’.

“There are many lessons community-based housing associations can learn from the Reidvale experience, and it’s largely in our sector’s own hands to avoid the things that went wrong there.”

With the required approval of the transfer by Reidvale tenants in place, Reidvale will now ask its shareholding members to play their part in delivering the transfer. This will involve two Special General Meetings where members will be asked to approve, then at the second meeting, confirm a special transfer resolution.

Subject to these approvals and other final consents, the transfer to Places for People Scotland is expected to be completed in early Spring 2024. It would then become responsible for the delivery of all services currently delivered by Reidvale and can start delivering all that it has committed to for the area.

Eddie Marley, chair of Reidvale Housing Association, said: “The management committee is very happy with the package of transfer promises that we secured from Places for People Scotland. These will make a huge positive difference to our tenants including the rent freeze and additional investment in our homes and communities.

“We are delighted that so many tenants took the opportunity to vote with a clear majority voting in favour. This provides a good mandate for Places for People Scotland going forward to deliver on the promises they have made.”

Katie Smart, director of Places for People Scotland, added: “We feel very privileged that the tenants of Reidvale have put their faith in Places for People Scotland to deliver on our transfer promises. We now look towards the Special General Meetings with Reidvale shareholders where they will be asked to approve the special transfer resolution.

“We are hopeful for a positive outcome and are confident that the transfer will combine the strengths, capabilities, assets, and traditions of both organisations to create a stronger entity that can deliver a thriving future for the Reidvale community.”

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