Over the last year, thanks to Edge Fund, as well as members’ dues and other sources of funding, Living Rent has been able to support tenants have a voice in the housing system and challenge some of its unfair and exploitative practices.
We have supported over 50 tenants with individual housing issues (repairs, stolen deposits, illegal fees, incredible mould and damp, asbestos) through collective action and support. This has developed the skills of a team of 10 volunteers to act as ‘member defense volunteers’ who are now able to signpost, support and plan actions to help tenants resolve their issues. We have taken direct action against several letting agencies, with quite a few wins for tenants, saving thousand pounds worth in repairs, deposit claims and illegal fees.
We have campaigned for a winterbreak to protect everyone’s right to a home in the worst times of the year and embedded housing as a human right in the legislation. We have further increased awareness around the problems of the proposed rent pressure zones (RPZ) and members have written a report outlining the limits and shortcomings of the existing legislation around RPZ to campaign for better regulation and rent controls which actually make housing affordable in Edinburgh and across Scotland in general.
We have supported the emergence of a neighbourhood group of tenants in Muirhouse. These group has research the extent of their housing issues – which effect most tenants in 6 tower blocks, representing 358 apartments – and campaign to pressure the council for greater and faster repairs given the urgency of the situation. Tenants are currently living with so-said ‘stable’ asbestos – no asbestos is ever stable – and many of them cannot afford to heat their homes or have had incredible issues with mould and damp. This group has secured regular meetings with the council, as well as more oversight and say over the 12million pounds worth of improvement of the buildings.
As a group, we have grown by 100 members last year, reaching 150 members in Edinburgh, with four active teams, and monthly branch meeting with regular attendance of over twenty people. We have regular door knocking, member defense activities and petition stalls, as well as weekly support for tenants with their housing issues. Increasingly just mentioning our name helps tenants sort their situation in two phone calls! We have worked with migrant groups, such as Spanish groups across the city and Polish communities in Muirhouse specifically.