One of the workshop streams at the Scot.E3 conference in November was devoted to housing. This report is from Mike Downham who was one of the facilitators of the discussion.
- Housing in Scotland is a disgrace – from the Muirhead tower blocks to new-build. A participant from Hungary, who has been in Glasgow for a year or so and has had extreme difficulties in finding somewhere to live and which is affordable to heat, said that Scotland’s housing compares very badly with Hungary’s, which at least has thick walls. “You’ve got to do something about it”.
- Student housing. The Universities are supplying student housing which is unaffordable except for wealthy students, mostly from the Far East, and make it difficult for most students to find less expensive accommodation. There has been a lot of public criticism about students having such high quality housing, while many citizens are homeless. But the reality is that the majority of students have huge difficulties in finding housing they can afford to rent and heat. It’s not unusual for them to end up on someone else’s sofa.
- Commodification of housing since 1980 is at the root of the housing crisis in Scotland. Housing policy has been primarily aimed at growing the national economy, instead of housing being recognised as a human right.
- What we can do together towards a just transition in Scotland’s Housing:
- Demand that Councils bring building standards up to passive-house specifications and replace building control jobs lost in the name of austerity, without which new housing can’t be adequately inspected. These changes are perfectly feasible for Councils.
- Put pressure on the Scottish Government to ensure that the new Scottish Investment Bank will direct enough funding to build the new houses needed (this is urgent – the Scottish Investment Bank Bill is going through parliament now).
- Put pressure on Pension Funds to invest in housing.
- Support grass-roots protest as demonstrated by Living Rent’s support for Muirhouse tenants, which started with door-knocking to get all tenants’ views.
- Suggest to XR that they target some of their direct action on grass-roots projects such as Muirhouse
- Suggest that grass-roots projects such as Muirhouse deliver their demands to the COP 26 – to both the formal and the alternative meetings.
- Keep in our sites the eventual objective of a National Housing Company through which communities will choose the type of housing, local facilities and green species they need
- Climate is just one part of the wider argument – so the challenge for the Climate Movement is to build links with all other movements concerned with social injustice.
- “We need to close this down” – just as we would have no hesitation in doing if there was a proposal to build an asbestos factory at the end of our street. Though this was said in respect of the climate polluters, the fact that it was said in a discussion on Housing, Health and Fuel Poverty suggests that it should be our approach to all forms of social and planetary injustice.
Image (Construction of the Passive House) CC BY SA 2.0 from Sustainable Sanitation Alliance