£32m bid to end slum hell in Glasgow's Govanhill

A £32MILLION plan will transform one of Glasgow's most rundown areas.

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Parts of Govanhill are in a bad state of repair
Parts of Govanhill are in a bad state of repair

It would mean the city council buying up to 350 flats in Govanhill - many of them owned by slum landlords.

The properties would be managed by a local housing association, which would upgrade them and offer them for affordable rent.

A new council report says the pre-1919 tenement blocks in south west Govanhill have been a source of major concern for a number of years.

The council, Govanhill Housing Association and Govanhill Partnership have worked together to resolve persistent problems of overcrowding, deterioration of the fabric of the buildings, rat infestations and the subsequent blight on the surrounding area.

But the report says an increase in the number of tenants renting their properties rather than owning them is undermining much of the good work which has been done.

It adds: "The spread of deterioration to the wider Govanhill area must be halted."

But the council claims this can only be done if radical action is carried out within the next year.

As a result, it is to ask the Scottish Government to provide £32m to fund an improvement scheme that would eliminate overcrowding, bring buildings up to tolerable standards and deal with infestations of rats, mice and bugs.

The council has identified 13 problem blocks bounded by Westmoreland Street, Dixon Avenue, Calder Street and Cathcart Road.

They say what is needed is a change to the balance of the tenure of the properties.

Instead of the majority of the flats being privately rented, the majority would be a mix of owner-occupied and housing association.

A programme of maintenance would be introduced, insulation would be installed and all landlords in the area would have to be registered.

The report says: "Govanhill as a whole and the blocks of pre-1919 tenements which make south west Govanhill remains a significant residential area which continues to attract a wide diversity of ethnic groups.

"The flux associated with temporary and semi-permanent residents creates tensions and uncertainty for existing residents.

"This, together with the relatively low value of the properties has made it particularly attractive to opportunist purchase for renting and sub-letting."

Each year, the council has around £8m to address serious property repairs across the whole city.

But the report says: "This budget could be swallowed up several times in south west Govanhill.

"The scale of the problem and the time taken to address all 13 groups of tenements is such it will take 20 to 30 years to complete the programme should it continue in its present form.

"Since 2008, the city council has invested some £18m in Govanhill as a whole. It is neither reasonable nor sustainable that resources earmarked for the whole city should be so skewed towards one particular area.

"Substantial inroads can be made to address several of the underlying problems which have blighted this area of the city for a number of years.

It is vital action is taken now to avoid further deterioration of the properties and to restore a balanced mix of tenures."

The council says the new strategy would allow for the purchase of around a quarter of all the flats in the 13 affected tenement blocks -up to 350 properties.

It has ruled out buying all the flats in the 13 blocks because of the estimated £100m cost.

Instead it favours targeting properties in blocks where there are management issues due to irresponsible or absentee landlords.

That would formally change the pattern of ownership, provide social rented housing with secure tenancies and allow for repairs and improvements to common areas.

Private renting in Govanhill has increase by 12% to 60% in the past two years, with owner occupation falling by the same percentage.

The report says the plan is ambitious for a number of reasons, including the possibility that the number of flats bought by private landlords could outstrip the number taken over by the housing association.

Other factors which have to be considered include:

l the "unpredictably and scope for criminality" of private landlords and other players operating in the area.

l the need for constant inspection and supervision.

l the need to take a planned approach to enforcement action against owners who are behaving irresponsibly.

Council leader Gordon Matheson said: "Enough is enough. We need a radical solution to the problems of Govanhill.

"And I am determined to use all powers at my disposal, including compulsory purchase.

"We have all tried hard to tackle these issues and millions of pounds is spent every year.

"But rogue private landlords continue to exploit vulnerable tenants and couldn't care less about the decent majority of local residents, nor the cost to the taxpayer.

"I want to work with local people, elected members of all parties, community organisations and the Scottish Government to deliver the step-change this proud neighbourhood deserves. This has gone on far too long."

vivienne.nicoll@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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