DESPERATE residents have marched to the offices of their housing association as part of a "rat race action" to demand a timeline for the major refurbishment of their buildings in the city’s East End.

Those living in properties in Overtown and Law Street in the Barrowfield area took action outside the West of Scotland Housing Association office yesterday afternoon.

The residents attended the office, on Barrowfield Drive, to deliver a letter calling for a timeline of the refurbishment programme which they say is needed due to structural damage.

They are also calling for improved pest control and say that their rent should be reduced while the work is ongoing.

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The buildings are currently set to be refurbished in 2027, but, working alongside the Living Rent Tenants’ Union, families are demanding a meeting with the head of the housing association, Brian Gannon, to demand immediate action.

They claim this is due to problems with subsidence, rats and mice, and high energy bills.  

But West of Scotland Housing Association insist they are undertaking insulation improvements, they have been carrying out works to prevent rodents from entering homes and an agreement has been reached to spend more than £2m on improvements. 

During the Rat Race action, which took place from 3-5pm, people dressed up with rat masks and chanted "get the rats out our flats" while holding a banner that read "get the rats out, living with mice is not nice". 

The letter which was handed into the housing association and detailed issues read: "Residents in Overtown and Law St have been left to live in decaying flats, infested by rats, meanwhile West of Scotland Housing Association receive increased rent and service charges. 

"The current situation is causing untold damage to the residents’ mental physical health."

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Following the letter, Living Rent Tenants' Union claims residents were able to have a meeting with Brian Gannon about the refurbishment, but they have been refused a rent rebate or abatement. 

Jack Hanington, member defence coordinator at Living Rent Tenants’ Union said yesterday's action has been a long time coming.

He said: "There have been reports of rats and mice for the last two years and scarier than that are the subsidence issues which have seen tenants see their door frames crack apart. 

"The housing association have agreed to decant all the residents and majorly refurbish the blocks, but they’ve not given a clear timeline, so that’s what tenants need, and they also need a rent rebate while living in structurally inadequate homes as well as dealing with the rat and mouse infestation in the scheme. 

"It’s been a long old battle and there have been numerous issues like mental health issues that have led to people feeling like they have to move out without getting any compensation or anything like that. 

"It’s a really tight-knit area and community and that’s why it’s sort of heartbreaking that the investment isn’t happening into the area." 

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Mr Hanington said that while the housing association were praised during COP26 for their pilot green development in Springfield Cross, some residents of Overtown Street say they are paying up to £200 per month in energy bills. 

Mr Hanington said: "It’s been a real cause of frustration for people in Barrowfield because West of Scotland Housing Association has come again and again with quite clean press releases and press statements showing green energy developments around Glasgow, but these flats are costing £100 to heat a month and for families, with the cost of living going up, they’ve just been left behind."

West of Scotland Housing Association has also been criticised for increasing rents on the Overtown and Law Street properties by 2.5% this year, with residents reporting to the Living Rent Tenants' Union they were not consulted on the increase despite it being a legal requirement.

However, the housing association say residents were consulted with in a letter in December last year and the rise is one of the lowest in the social housing sector. 

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One Living Rent member and tenant of Overtown Street who chose to remain anonymous said: "West of Scotland Housing Association have left us to live with rats for the last two years, we’re scared to go into our homes.

"People are seriously struggling with their mental health here and a lot of that is to do with the housing and lack of investment.

"I don’t think management at the Housing Association live in buildings that are crumbling down and ridden with rats.

"So today we’re showing them how it feels.

"We need a meeting with Brian Gannon to reach an agreement on a timeline for decants, refurbishments, rent abatements and rebates.

"We’ve had enough."

Brian Gannon, chief executive of West of Scotland Housing Association, said: "Since December 2021, West of Scotland Housing Association have been engaging with a group of tenants at Overtown and Law St in Barrowfield regarding investment in the homes.

"Myself and other directors at WSHA have had four separate meetings with the group to listen to their concerns and consider investment options.

"At our last meeting with the residents' group, we reached an agreement with residents on investment in their homes which involves WSHA spending over £2m on window, kitchen, bathroom and heating systems replacements.

"We are also undertaking insulation improvements to ground floor flats as a result of issues identified in a thermal imaging survey and we are creating new French doors and Juliette balconies at their bay windows.

"This investment will significantly improve the warmth of tenants’ homes and help to reduce their energy use.

"We wrote to all tenants in these homes on April 5, 2022, to confirm our investment plans, the likely site starts in Summer 2022 and decant proposals (the first tenants are due to move out next month to allow works to take place).

"We continue to carry out necessary works to residents’ homes to prevent access by vermin and have raised this very problematic issue with Glasgow City Council on behalf of the tenants.

"In respect of the recent rent increase, all tenants in Overtown Street were consulted with by letter, along with every other WSHA tenant, during December 2021 and our below inflation rent increase of 2.5% was one of the lowest rent increases in the social housing sector."

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