ON Monday evening, against all odds, Dennistoun’s Reidvale Housing Association voted against a takeover by the London-based Places for People (PfP).

The defiant membership saw through the hollow deal on the table and voted by a two-thirds majority of 138 to 70 to keep the housing association community owned.

A resounding victory that is unprecedented and will surely go down in the annals of Glasgow’s social housing history, alongside Mary Barbour’s army of rent strikers in 1915 and Shettleston Labour MP John Wheatley’s trailblazing Housing Act of 1924.

Reidvale Housing Association has around 900 homes in what is an increasingly desirable neighbourhood. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why a London-based group wants to get its hands on such prized assets.

What was most concerning about the proposed takeover, however, was the loss of local accountability and control – the very essence of community-owned housing that is one of Glasgow’s great strengths.  Monday’s result is a historic act of solidarity and co-operation, proving that – despite the Scottish Housing Regulator’s ambivalence towards community control – the housing association movement is thriving. A rejection of a takeover like this has never happened before and is testament to the strong community spirit of working-class people in Dennistoun.

That being said, Reidvale Housing Association has always been a pioneer, after all, it was one of the very first housing associations in the whole of the UK.

It came about in the midst of post-war mass demolitions in Glasgow’s inner-city districts when the tenements along the south side of Duke Street were condemned for demolition, by order of the Glasgow Corporation, with the close-knit community to be scattered to the four winds amongst the city’s new peripheral housing schemes, Easterhouse, Drumchapel, Castlemilk and Pollok.

The residents said “no chance”.

They soon organised a campaign group, led by the late John Butterly MBE and nicknamed the Bathgate Street Mafia, and came together to reject the plan to knock down their homes. Their activism and refusal to move eventually saw the corporation back down. Most of the tenement blocks were saved from demolition and renovated instead, with indoor toilets installed and decades of soot washed away to reveal beautiful blond sandstone facades.

In 1975, Reidvale officially became one of the first community-owned housing associations in Scotland.

To this day, Reidvale boasts some of the lowest rents in Scotland at around 14% below the Scottish average, has no debt on any of its houses, has some of the highest tenant satisfaction figures and reserves in excess of £2 million – an incredible situation to be in despite the economic difficulties at present.

That is what community ownership offers.

When you look at what PfP promised, it is no wonder residents rejected the takeover. It promised a five-year rent freeze for current tenancies, nothing about this was legally binding and it would not apply to new tenants if a resident was transferred to another Reidvale property. PfP’s emergency repairs take on average 16.7 hours while Reidvale takes just 3.1 hours.

And recently, PfP was found to have committed “severe maladministration” by the Housing Ombudsman Service after it allowed mould to grow in a West Yorkshire home for nearly a decade and did nothing to rectify it.

The takeover had been presented as a foregone conclusion by Reidvale’s Management Committee of mostly external co-opted members, but Reidvale’s residents held fast to their founding principles of community ownership. Whilst we can celebrate a rare David v Goliath victory, this is not yet the finish line, far from it.

The next stage is to bring all Reidvale residents back together, put the community back in control of the Management Committee and develop a new business plan that is centred on community ownership, building on the strong asset base of the housing association. The Scottish Housing Regulator must respect this overwhelming verdict from the people and be there to help facilitate their efforts.

Despite the many who wrote off Reidvale, it is now safe to say that the spirit of John and the Bathgate Street Mafia is still very much alive and kicking in Dennistoun.