Scotland's biggest city has seen the number of children being forced into housing limbo quadruple in the 21 years since the council transferred all its council stock, The Herald can reveal.

It has raised new questions over the move to transfer more than 80,000 homes into the hands of a separate housing association in the wake of Glasgow declaring its own housing emergency in November, last year.

Towards the end of 2023, there were 3,194 households in temporary accommodation, because there is not enough settled permanent homes for people - 1469 more than in 2003, when Glasgow City Council began the transfer process to the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) which was succeeded by Wheatley Homes.

But the number of children in housing limbo has shot up more markedly according to official analysis seen by The Herald, from 685 in 2023 to 2870.

The formal transfer of Glasgow City Council's housing stock on March 7, 2003 took place after 58% of tenants who took part in a ballot voted in favour of the move.

Then UK Chancellor Gordon Brown had offered to cancel Glasgow’s housing debt of more than £900 million if tenants voted for transfer. It would allow the housing association to raise money privately.


Labour First Minister Jack McConnell at the time, urged tenants to "seize the opportunity" saying the transfer would lead to "better housing, stronger neighbourhoods and more jobs".

The Scottish Trades Union Congress were among those who opposed the transfer warning that it would result in less houses and poorer quality services for the more vulnerable like homeless people.

They were concerned that the move would lead to further removal of housing from direct local control and they said that the experience in England indicated reduced services for homeless people.

A circular opposing the removal of housing from council control from 2006 (Image: NQ)
The national tenants' rights organisation Living Rent said that past concerns have come to fruition.

"The stock transfer has not worked for Glasgow’s tenants. Before the stock transfer of social housing, our politicians and Wheatley Homes made huge promises of more homes, better living conditions and more jobs. But more than thirty years on, it is clear that these promises have been broken.

"The failure of the stock transfer and this government’s approach to housing is highlighted by the number of Glaswegian children in temporary accommodation. This is not the vision that the tenants of Glasgow were promised. No child should have to grow up without a safe and secure home.

The stock transfer promised more investment in building new housing and faster repairs. Thirty years on and the number of people on waiting lists continues to climb and tenants have to fight tooth and nail for meagre repairs all whilst seeing yearly inflation-busting rent increases.

As a union, we are clear that we need more social housing. This government needs to invest in social housing and legislate to ensure that housing associations are forced to do badly needed repairs."

A Scottish Housing Regulator analysis shows Wheatley rents went up for a three-person apartment by nearly 30% over eight years from £74.30 a week in 2014/15 to £91.28 in 2022/23.

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"Before the transfer, Wheatley promised a vastly improved service, including investment in building new homes and desperately needed upgrades of existing stock. Yet since the transfer, members have reported worsening mould and damp, have seen year on year rent increases and have had to fight tooth and nail for meagre repairs," said Living Rent.

Both Wheatley and Glasgow City Council insist that the transfer has led to improvements in the standards of housing in the city.

After the initial stock transfer, second stage transfers to other registered social landlords happened after further tenant ballots.

Some 24 community-controlled housing associations and co-operatives are said to have taken ownership of 18,950 GHA homes under the process.

Wheatley say that since 2003, they've spent more than £1.5 billion improving more than 70,000 homes across the city.

And they say they have built more than 4000 new homes and created more than 6500 jobs and training opportunities for tenants.

They say that over 2000 tenants are regularly involved "at all levels" in how it is run which has "only been made possible because of the transfer".

Glasgow became the second Scottish city to declare a "housing emergency" in November, amid mounting pressures on homelessness services.

A city council committee agreed the move due to "unprecedented pressures" facing the local authority and warnings of social unrest over moves to accelerate the clearance of a backlog of asylum claims by the Home Office.

The SNP-led council was expecting around 2500 decisions on refugee status to be made by the end of that year with some 1,800 expected to have leave to remain, which they said would place the "already stretched Homelessness Service under unprecedented pressure".

It was expected to cost the council more than £53m, while at the time there was already an overspend of £21.4m, including £10.1m overspend in Homelessness Services while it has has sought to cut back on its use of high cost hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation.

It was predicted that Glasgow's homelessness services would be left with a £70.1m budget black hole in this financial year.

Sean Clerkin, campaign co-ordinator with the Scottish Tenants Organisation, who was one of those who led a campaign against the council housing stock transfer, said the over-reliance on temporary accommodation to keep a roof over people's heads showed that the transfer has not achieved its objectives and should come back under local authority control.

"I warned then that removing municipal housing from direct democratic control would lead to a privatised entity that would grow into a monolith that would not meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens thus we are witnessing all these years later record numbers of homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation including a quadrupling of the number of children in such squalid and overcrowded conditions in Glasgow.

Glasgow Queens Cross Housing Associaton: Tenants protest after rent hike last year  (Image: Gordon Terris, Newsquest) "Housing should be returned to local democratic control with an increase in public funding to eradicate the social evil of homelessness that is plaguing our city once again.

"The biggest stock transfer has failed the social tenants of Glasgow."

Before the asylum "crisis", campaigners raised fears of a "meltdown" over the handling of homelessness in Glasgow and it emerged that according to an analysis in June, last year, the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership - an amalgamation of Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde which delivers community health and social care services - was already 1600 lets short of the 4500 it needs annually.

Glasgow City Council, however, says that the quality of the city's housing "has significantly improved" since the transfer through investment by registered social landlords and the council in partnership with the Scottish Government.

A spokesman said: "The stock transfer - and the strategic partnership activity in the two decades since - have enabled considerable levels of investment in existing housing in the city and has resulted in a significant housing-led regeneration programme with lasting benefits for Glasgow’s residents.

"“As a result of these transfers, over £900 million of housing debt was cancelled by the UK Government; £1.6billion has been invested in the city’s housing through the Transfer of the Management of Development Funding programme and over £1 billion in private sector finance has been attracted through Registered Social Landlords private funding contributions towards new build developments. With this investment bringing 20,000 new and improved affordable homes (17,000 of these being new) to the city. "The investment has and continues to significantly contribute towards the regeneration of Glasgow’s neighbourhoods.

“The council works very closely with local housing associations to bring new housing to Glasgow and a strong example of this working is the Transformational Regeneration Areas programme, delivered by the Transforming Communities: Glasgow partnership that has and will deliver mixed-tenure homes in eight areas across the city.

"All of these areas (including Laurieston, North Toryglen, Pollokshaws and Sighthill) had poor-quality and low-demand housing stock, and this situation has been reversed through £627 million in regeneration investment, including £330 million towards the development of 2,573 new homes across the eight areas, as well as new community facilities, green spaces and commercial units, and improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure, addressing issues of poor connectivity.”

Bernadette Hewitt, Wheatley Group Board member and tenant, said that the stock transfer has radically improved housing conditions in Glasgow.

Bernadette Hewitt (Image: Stock)

“It increased the number of high-quality homes and brought about the opportunity to regenerate tens of thousands of homes and communities – all making a positive and lasting difference to the lives of so many people in Glasgow," she said.

“The housing debt burden that had blocked new investment for decades was lifted and allowed the 61 registered social landlords currently in the city to invest in their properties, build thousands of new, high-quality affordable homes and transform neighbourhoods for the better.

“Since stock transfer, we’ve invested more than £1.5 billion in tenants’ homes in Glasgow on new kitchens and bathrooms, doors and windows, roofs and central heating systems. In the last financial year alone, we spent £47.6m making homes warmer, more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run.

“A report into our investment programme in 2019 by the Fraser of Allander Institute showed it contributed £2 billion to Scotland’s gross domestic product and supported an average of 2425 full-time equivalent jobs per year.

"Last year we received £19.2m from Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to help fund the delivery of new-build affordable homes in the city.”