The Structure and Nature of the GHA and How to Apply Pressure

 

 

Glasgow Housing Association

 

Glasgow Housing Association is a quango (Quasi Non Governmental Organisation) under the control of the Scottish Government.

It was established six years ago, in 2002.

It owns and manages the houses which before then had been Glasgow’s Council houses.

It is said to be the biggest landlord in Western Europe.

It has around 70,000 houses currently.

That is down from 84,000 six years ago, and is forecast to drop further to 60,000 six years from now.

 

Council staff employed by Glasgow City Council Housing Services were TUPE’d (Transfer of Undertakings / Protection of Employment) across to Glasgow Housing Association in 2002. Many additional staff have been hired since then.

It does not own the land upon which the houses stand – Glasgow City Council retains ownership of that. When houses are demolished, the land reverts to Glasgow City Council. Any proceeds from the sale of land go to Glasgow City Council.

 

 

How the GHA is Governed

 

The GHA is presently controlled by its 15 strong Board of Management, comprising:

·        Six tenant members, elected in six constituencies by postal ballot of all tenants from a list of pre-selected candidates (candidates must be nominated by a Local Housing Organisation);

·        Four ‘independent’ members, appointed or co-opted by the rest of the GHA board. One of these is the powerful vice-chair, Fred Shedden;

·        Four councillors nominated by Glasgow City Council – currently two labour, two SNP.

·        The GHA Chief Executive, who currently is Taroub Zahran.

 

The GHA board of management is dominated by its Vice-Chair, Fred Shedden, a retired corporate lawyer and investment banker. (The chairperson is, according to GHA’s rules, always a tenant member. But tenant members on the GHA board, like tenants in general, are treated with contempt by the GHA and are permitted to attend meetings under sufferance. The tenant chairperson is a figurehead, taking guidance from the vice chair and from the Chief Executive. In effect, Fred Shedden is the chairperson, not the vice-chair). He chairs the sub-committee responsible for recruitment and remunerations, which decides on who is to be Chief Executive, and what her pay is to be..

 

He is a busy man however, with only time to give direction to GHA on major issues. His Business Week profile reads:

 

A. C. (Fred) Shedden, MA, LLB serves as a Consultant of DLA. Mr. Shedden is a Solicitor with over 30 years experience, following 15 years as Managing Partner with McGrigor Donald (a leading Scottish law firm). Mr. Shedden served as a Senior Partner of McGrigor Donald until 2000. Mr. Shedden has been Non-executive Chairman of the Board of Halladale Group PLC since March 2001. He has been Chairman of Martin Currie Japan Investment Trust PLC since October 1, 2003. Mr. Shedden ... serves as Chairman of Wisdom IT Holdings Ltd. and Good Practice Ltd. He has been Non-Executive Director of Iomart Group PLC since 2000. Mr. Shedden has been Non Executive Director of Equitable Life Assurance Society and Equitable Life Finance PLC, a subsidiary of Equitable Life Assurance Society since May 1, 2002 and is a Member of Legal Audit and Investment Committees. He has been a Director of Martin Currie Japan Investment Trust PLC since October 24, 1995. He has been Independent Non-Executive Director of Murray International Trust PLC since October 23, 2000 and a number of unlisted companies. Mr. Shedden has been Director of Halladale Group PLC since March 2001. From 1992 to 1999, Mr. Shedden served as a Non-Executive Director of Standard Life Assurance Company. He served as a Non-Executive Director of The Scottish Metropolitan Property PLC. Mr. Shedden serves as member of The Scottish Further Education Funding Council, a Governor of Glasgow School of Art and a member of the management committee of Glasgow Housing Association.
[http://investing.businessweek.com/businessweek/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=1833841&capId=919599&previousCapId=877750&previousTitle=Savills%20plc ]

 

Day to day control of the GHA lies with its Chief Executive, Taroub Zahran.

 

From the central GHA in Granite House, command flows to the seven local shared services managers – the Local Shared Services Manager for the Maryhill Corridor is Jim McCabe – and from them to the 63 community housing managers in local GHA offices across Glasgow.

 

 

Local Housing Organisations

 

Before transfer six years ago, government ministers stated that Glasgow Housing Association would deliver tenant empowerment and community ownership. In order to be seen to progress towards this, Glasgow Housing Association went on to set up  Local Housing Organisation committees of local tenants (mostly) and a few factored owner-occupiers. They have no significant decision making powers however: local housing officials are all employed by GHA centrally, and investment plans and priorities are also determined by GHA centrally. They have functioned simply as glorified tenants associations and consultative committees.

 

GHA has not stressed this lack of powers of the LHO’s. The main motive for GHA in setting up LHO committees was to use their existence to head off demands for any serious tenant or community control, or for any of the dreaded second stage transfer which could see the GHA out of a job. It is in the interest of the GHA to pretend that the LHO committees amount to something, while at the same time keeping them powerless. The LHOs are for the GHA, potemkin villages – sham creations designed to fool politicians, journalists and the public.

 

Another group guilty of talking up LHOs, but for completely different reasons, are the old community based housing associations, such as Queens Cross Housing Association. Many LHO Committees are sub committees of an established housing association management committee. That doesn’t mean anything in itself today, but those housing associations have been hoping that relationship could eventually turn into an opportunity for them to take over the housing stock in that area (called ‘second stage transfer’). It is in their interest also to pretend that LHO committees are something that they are not. So Queens Cross Housing Association and Maryhill Housing Association have had their names inserted into the names of the LHO committees that they have claimed as sub-committees of their own management committees. Being given the name is a consolation prize for not getting any of the actual housing stock. Sadly for them, the name is all they have, the GHA centrally continue to run everything. But if it ever comes to a vote on second stage housing stock transfer, pretending they’ve been involved in running the housing stock will help the old community based housing associations win the vote, so they keep talking up that idea now.

 

In reality, the LHO committees have the power to decide not much more than what type of biscuits they eat at their committee meetings. The GHA centrally – meaning Taruob Zahran in person – retains powers including:

·        Central GHA decides who is hired to be community housing manager, and all other housing staff.

·        Central GHA control promotions of the community housing manager and other housing staff.

·        Central GHA can discipline or even fire the community housing manager and other housing staff at will

·        Central GHA negotiates on pay and conditions for the community housing manager and other housing staff.

·        Central GHA signs off on all investment plans, and often decides on investment plans on its own without involving the LHO committee.

·        Central GHA decides on legal proceedings for evictions – who is to be evicted, when, why.

·        Central GHA controls letting policy (although community housing manager has some discretion over individual cases. But LHO committee has no role in that).

·        Central GHA controls repairs policy (although community housing manager has some discretion over individual cases. But LHO committee has no role in that).

·        Central GHA decides rent levels

·        Central GHA decides which companies are given contracts for investment work, and on what terms.

 

LHOs do not employ any staff.

 

 

Community Housing Managers

 

Each GHA local office is run by a community housing manager. He or she is responsible for decisions on whether or not individual repairs go ahead, so they are worth pursuing for those issues. He or she is also the line manager for the housing officers in that local office. However their power is very limited, as all investment decisions are made by GHA centrally in Granite House. Most eviction decisions are also made by GHA centrally in Granite House. Be aware that many GHA community housing managers will not emphasise their powerlessness, and so you can find yourself wasting time engaging with them on issues over which responsibility lies at a higher level. In reality, for all but specific individual repairs, the GHA Chief Executive, Taroub Zahran, tends to have retained decision making power to herself alone.

 

The structure of Community Housing Managers maps to the LHO Committees, and the Community Housing Managers attend their LHO Committee meetings. But they are not responsible to the LHO committees – the committees can only advise, question, and scrutinise. The community housing managers are employed by the GHA and are responsible and report to the central GHA management structure alone, not to the LHO committee in any way. They also have no responsibility to other housing associations such as Queens Cross.

 

 

Joining your LHO

 

LHO committees have no formal power. But they are nevertheless worth joining. Why?

1.      The LHO committee gets a face to face meeting with their community housing manager once every two to four weeks. That’s very useful for buttonholing them on individual repairs, evictions, waiting list issues, and so on.

2.      The LHO committee members get posted out to their homes the plans and financial details of what the GHA is proposing in their area.

3.      The LHO committee is allowed to nominate people to run for election to the central GHA board of management. Often those elections are uncontested. In a contested election, all tenants get a postal ballot, and each candidate gets an election address sent out to all the tenants at GHA expense.

4.      LHO committee support would add prestige to local campaign. If, say, the LHO committee agreed to call publicly for new kitchens to be high priority, or for a reduction in demolitions, then that would embarrass the GHA centrally and would also help grab the interest of press and politicians.

 

To get on the your LHO committee, contact their chairperson asking if and when you would be allowed to join – they could co-opt you on right away. If they won’t do that, you have to wait until their next annual general meeting to be voted in. All tenants and factored owner occupiers are allowed to attend the AGM, and any of them can stand for a place in the committee, provided the nomination is submitted in writing two weeks before the AGM is held (you generally won’t be allowed to be nominated for election on the night). The cliquier LHOs like to keep their AGMs secret, so be prepared to ask your community housing manager, in writing or email, for the date and location of the next AGM. As always, complain immediately to Taroub Zahran if you don’t get the information and assistance you want.

 

One drawback of LHO committee membership is that you cannot publicly criticise your LHO committee or (unless your LHO committee ok’s it), the wider GHA. So you have to either speak from under a different hat, or have someone else put their name to the public comments.

 

The standard of LHO committee varies widely: the worst are cliques of lackeys who agree with whatever their community housing manager tells them, the best are community activists prepared to take on the GHA power structure for the benefit of their fellow tenants. If you’re unlucky to be living where one of the

 

There are 63 LHO committees across Glasgow, which means a total of around 600 active tenant and owner occupier members.

 

 

LHO Committees in the North West are:

 

1) Balmore HA LHO, Mansion Street

(for Possilpark, Parkhouse, Springburn)

Community housing manager: Joanne Diamond

 

2) Queens Cross HA LHO (Burnbank/Cromwell/Dundasvale), Firhill Road.

Is a subcommittee of Queens Cross Housing Association

Community housing manager: Colin Weir.

 

3) Queens Cross HA LHO (Hamiltonhill), Westercommon Drive.

Is a subcommittee of Queens Cross Housing Association

Community housing manager: Ewen Gilmour.

 

4) Lambhill Housing Association, Knapdale Street,

Community housing manager: Irene Campbell

 

5) Maryhill HA LHO, Gairbraid Avenue

(for Valley, Botany, Gillshochill, Cadder)

Is a subcommittee of Maryhill Housing Association

Community housing manager: Bill Lanigan.

 

6) Milton Community Homes, Ashgill Road

Is a subcommittee of Cube Housing Association

Community housing manager: Rosanna Connolly

 

7) Queens Cross HA LHO (South Maryhill), Firhill Road

 (for South Maryhill, Anderston, Woodside).

Is a subcommittee of Queens Cross Housing Association

Community housing manager: Karen McLaughlin

 

8) Summerston Acre LHO, 1 Gairbraid Avenue

Community housing manager: Frankie Fox.

 

 

Raising issues with GHA

 

1.      First (applies to repairs only) log your issue with the emergency repair number 0800 595 595.

2.      Then, simultaneously with that, write or email your Local Housing Organisation manager with details of the issue. Ask them for an expected date of when it will be resolved.

3.      They have 10 working days to respond (simple acknowledgements or holding replies do not count)

4.      If they have not responded by then, or you are not happy with the outcome of their response (so in most all occasions), write or email the Chief Executive Taroub Zahran asking her to investigate and get back to you with her findings.

5.      At least at the start, you will have to go to Taroub Zahran almost every time on almost every issue. For urgent issues, write or email her direct at the very start without waiting.

 

 

Evictions

 

GHA have been far more vicious than City Housing were or other Housing Associations are, over evictions for rent arrears. As soon as they threaten eviction, get a lawyer involved. If you live in Greater Govan, Govan Law Centre are good to use. Otherwise, consider using the Legal Services Agency.

 

GHA will (reluctantly) agree to a slow gradual arrears repayment if you state that you are in "financial hardship" and say that you want to draw up an affordable repayment plan. You can draw up an income/expenditure plan to support that.

 

If housing benefit overpayments or delays are involved, consider involving GHA’s own welfare rights advisors (a free service for tenants).

 

Landlords have a legal duty to provide a wind and watertight home. The mutuality of contract principle in Scots law means a landlord cannot insist on rent if it is in breach of contract – so where landlord has failed to carry out notified repairs it could be

argued that some rent is not lawfully due. From Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre http://www.afraser.com/housing/legal.pdf

 

 

Glasgow City Council’s continuing power over Housing

 

Although they have little influence over GHA, GCC retains powers of strategic direction and finance for housing in Glasgow.

1.      Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee allocates out the Scottish Government’s Housing Association Grant. New social rented houses are only built when funded through the HAG,  and GCC ties its release of funds to specific projects for specific housing associations, so this gives GCC total control over who builds what where in the social rented sector. In practice, GCC DRS staff are involved in a leading role from the earliest stages of any suggested new build social rented housing.

2.      GCC determines land use through its planning committee – what types of housing are approved and where.

3.      GCC owns much of the land in Glasgow, most especially ownership of all cleared GHA sites reverts to GCC.

4.      Glasgow City Council Social Work Services Department decides who is counted as homeless, and which of those are counted as priority homeless, and which of those are quickly housed in GHA or community controlled housing associations by being listed under section 5 of the Housing Act. Note that Social Work Services have an appeal process for

 

Glasgow City Council is in favour of a decline in social rented housing. They hope to instead increase the proportion of private housing, especially expensive private housing, to encourage economic development.

 

For more information, see Glasgow City Couincil’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan 2008/09 to 2012/13 at http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/FA2099CA-CC59-4D71-9F07-8B133A7C72E9/0/SHIPFINALPart1.pdf

 

Key People involved in this are:

1.      Steve Inch, Executive Director of Development and Regeneration Services.

2.      Councillor George Ryan, Executive Member for Development and Regeneration.

3.      Councillor Steven Purcell, Leader of the Council,