'THE people of Dennistoun showed them. We stood tall, we stood proud and we said hands off our homes.”

That’s the feeling 54-year-old Denise Dempsey hasn’t been able to shake since Monday night when shareholders voted to keep Reidvale Housing Association under community ownership.

Born out of a fight led by resident John Butterly to protect homes from demolition in the 1970s, up until recently it felt inevitable that Reidvale’s ownership would be transferred to national property management firm People for Places (PFP).

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The Sunday National has spoken with both Dempsey and Glasgow MSP Paul Sweeney – who helped campaign to retain community ownership – about why the result is so significant.

What happened to Reidvale?

NEARLY 900 homes are owned by Reidvale Housing Association and last month, tenants voted 62% in favour of transferring to PFP.

However, the vote only saw around 45% of all tenants back the move and required a two-thirds majority of shareholder members to be approved.

At a meeting on Monday night, the transfer was rejected by around two-thirds of the shareholders present with 138 voting against and 70 in favour.

Edinburgh-based PFP runs more than 7700 homes and is part of the larger Places for People Ltd, a Manchester-based association which owns more than 69,000 homes across the UK.

Why is community ownership so important?

THE Reidvale association is one of the oldest community-based housing associations in Glasgow, having first been set up in 1975.

As part of the transfer, PFP had promised a five-year rent freeze and a £13.7 million investment package for kitchens, bathrooms, windows 

Reidvale resident Dempsey has lived in the area for 30 years and was part of the campaign to retain community ownership.  

“I was brought up in Dennistoun, on Bellfield Street, but our building couldn’t be saved when Reidvale was starting to modernise tenements and our block was demolished,” she told the Sunday National.

“We moved out of the area but I moved back and have been here for around 30 years now.”

During the vote on Monday night, a peaceful protest was held to show support for those wanting Reidvale to stay in the hands of the community.

Dempsey added: “I was absolutely overwhelmed with the support we had on Monday night. It is unbelievable.

“I thought it would be such a struggle but I haven’t stopped smiling since Monday night – I’m so grateful to be part of this community.

“I know what Reidvale did for this community. We were living in slums back then and Reidvale have been amazing. I love that community feel where everybody knows everyone.”

Why the rejection of PFP?

GIVEN that PFP had promised a five-year rent freeze as well as major investment, why did campaigners want to reject the transfer?

Speaking to the Sunday National, Scottish Labour MSP Sweeney explained: “The basic motivation behind this campaign was that everything sounded too good to be true and that there must have been something in it for PFP.

“Acquiring 900 tenements in such an attractive neighbourhood provided it with a huge asset base. It wasn't a good move. PFP has a worse record in every measure that the Scottish Housing Regulator looks at.”  

He also pointed out that the success of the New Gorbals has largely been down to the housing association "driving the regeneration".

Reidvale's governing body had previously said an uncertain financial future meant it had no choice but to hand over control to PFP.

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However, Sweeney (above) said he felt tenants were being “duped” and that it wasn’t right for them to hand over an estimated £100m of debt-free assets to a much larger organisation given the implications this may have on local accountability. 

He also previously said that it was “completely unprecedented for a housing association to attempt to force through a takeover without the overwhelming backing of the tenants”.

“Keeping control of assets in this economy is essential for working-class people - we can’t have them losing control of asset wealth and then renting back that which they don’t collectively own,” he explained.

“Increasingly what people are having to do is sell their assets to sustain a living whether it’s younger people struggling to get on the property ladder or older people selling to pay for social care, for example.

“Even if it is to merge with something, it would be better to do so with an adjacent housing association. At least that way you’ve still got the community in control even if it’s over a slightly larger footprint.

“When the result of the vote was announced, there were people in tears because it had paid off and the campaign was successful. It was a lot of working-class people who haven’t had that kind of agency before.”

Dempsey (below) echoed many of Sweeney’s concerns and also pointed out that she was left feeling uncertain about what would happen when the five-year rent freeze ended.  

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Last year, the average weekly rent for a two-apartment flat was almost 16% below the Scottish average.

What does this mean for the future?

SWEENEY has described the result as “historic” in the history of Scottish social housing and said on Monday night that it was “people power” working at its best.

“Reidvale has had its ups and downs over the years but everybody assumed this transfer was a foregone conclusion,” he said.

“I think we sometimes look back sentimentally at the likes of Mary Barbour and the rent strikes and think we’d never get something like that anymore.

“But there was a little revival of that tradition on Monday night and it was incredibly emotional and inspiring to see it all."

Speaking on Monday evening, he said: "It also allows the community to be at the heart of everything that they do for years to come.

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"I'll be working closely with the community and the new committee that we hope to see in place shortly to reinvigorate Reidvale Housing Association.

"Let this be a clear marker that community housing associations in Scotland are here to stay and they are at the heart of what we want to see in our country's future economic model."

Dempsey, meanwhile, added: “I think we set a precedent on Monday night. What happened at that vote was momentous for our community, I couldn’t believe it.

“I thought they were going to vote yes and transfer it because that’s what we were consistently told.

“I think what we’ve shown communities is that when you stick together you can win anything. Look at the stock we’ve got. The flats are amazing, so you think no wonder they want them.”

What’s the reaction been with PFP?

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 on Reidvale's management committee to now agree on 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.”

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A spokesperson for Reidvale Housing Association's management committee, said: "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 January 15, 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."