Birmingham tenants reject transfer to RSLs

11 Apr 02
The government's programme of transferring council homes to registered social landlords suffered a major setback this week when tenants in Birmingham rejected a transfer proposed by their local authority.

12 April 2002

In a surprise snub, tenants voted two to one against their homes being switched to ten new community landlords being set up by the council. Of 94,000 tenants eligible to vote, just 20,350 supported transfer while 40,869 voted against. The turnout was 65.5%.

Public sector union Unison and the anti-transfer group Defend Council Housing were jubilant at the result, announced on April 8. This was three days after Glasgow City Council revealed that its 78,000 tenants had supported a switch to a new housing association.

Birmingham promised tenants that the new landlords would spend £1.25bn on repairs and improvements. But Tracey Twist, Unison's housing convenor, said the council had tried to mislead tenants by claiming that transfer was the only option.

John Perry, director of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said the government's target of getting all social housing up to a decent standard in ten years was now in serious question. 'The government will need to consider ways to make partial transfers – of individual estates – more attractive,' he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions said it would work with Birmingham to look at alternative ways of meeting the decent homes standard.

Birmingham City Council was due to discuss the ballot result on April 9. David Thompson, director of housing, said the shadow community landlords set up in anticipation of a 'yes' vote had shown the council how its housing service might become even more locally based.

In Glasgow, tenants voted narrowly in favour of 78,000 homes switching to Glasgow Housing Association. Fifty-eight per cent supported the proposal, while 42% were opposed in a turnout of 64.4%.

Tenants were promised centrally-heated homes within four years and further improvements to be carried out by the new landlord over ten. The government will write off £900m worth of debts.

Council leader Charlie Gordon said the 'clear-cut' result would 'accelerate the regeneration of Glasgow and bring in £1.5bn of much-needed investment – both public and private'.

Since the policy of large-scale voluntary transfers was introduced by the Conservative government in 1988, more than 600,000 homes have been transferred to RSLs.

The largest transfer in England remains Sunderland's switch of 36,000 homes to a new landlord in March 2001.


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