Duncan Maclennan, who was the longstanding director of Glasgow University's centre for housing and urban research in the 80s and 90s, and has wide experience of UK policy says the transfer of housing to the Glasgow Housing Association was a wise choice.

The emeritus professor in urban studies at the University of Glasgow says it is not only one of the largest but "one of the most enduring, successful projects" of the Scottish Executive.

Here Mr Maclennan, who was a right-hand man to the late Donald Dewar, the father of Scottish devolution, explains why.

There is a ‘wicked crisis’ in rental housing in most British cities that involves not just growing shortages and rising rent burdens but, also, deteriorating quality and diminished investment in council housing.

Although affected by wider rental investment shortages, Glasgow has been fortunate, as expressed in the views of tenants and the reviews of independent experts, in having avoided many of these difficulties within social housing.

READ MORE: Scotland's Housing Emergency – find all articles in series

Figures reported by the Scottish Housing Regulator show that other Scottish cities have lower tenant satisfaction scores than Wheatley achieves in Glasgow, and this can be attributed in part to the legacy of investment from the transfer. That reflects the wisdom of Glasgow’s council tenants in voting to transfer their homes to the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) in 2003.

The transfer has subsequently allowed their association to radically improve stock, remove thousands of decaying homes that would have cost more to refurbish than rebuild, and create new homes and better neighbourhoods such as the remade Gorbals, Toryglen and Sighthill. Nothing in Scotland, and little in the rest of the UK, equals that progress.

By the middle of the 1990’s, reflecting inadequate strategic management by both local and national governments, Glasgow’s council housing was on a vicious downward spiral. Stock quality was falling, only emergency maintenance was undertaken, tenants were leaving, and whilst the rents of tenants were rising burgeoning vacancies meant that total rent revenues were falling and reducing the capacity to repay the city’s £1bn housing debt.

The system, by 1999, had transformed billions of pounds of post-war investment in Glasgow’s council housing to a stock with a negative value. Restoring these homes would have required half of the Scottish Public Housing budget for at least a decade.

Sir Monty Finniston’s Commission on Glasgow’s Housing in the late 1980’s suggested that the council were not equipped to cope with the crisis emerging in their own housing and should transfer a significant share of homes to non-profits.

Subsequent council leaders bought into that notion for change. By 1999, some 16,000 homes had already been sold to community based associations and coops and tenants in council neighbourhoods could see the transformative effects of these transfers for themselves.

Donald Dewar, as MP then MSP for Drumchapel, also saw these changes and devoted a significant share of the time he had as  First Minister to ensuring that all of Glasgow’s tenants got the chance for change.

Arguably, creating the GHA was not only one of the largest but one of the most enduring, successful projects of the Scottish Executive. Only the most ideologically focussed of critics, with scant interest in tenant wellbeing, and with no interest in evidence, can deny that GHA has made Glasgow a much better place.

Read more:

We now need urgent action to develop similarly bold new policies to boost rental, and social rental housing investment in the city. The Wheatley Group, building on the transfer are now well placed to give momentum to these changes.

Doing housing business as usual does not help now. Nor does an unrealistic recall of how problematic Glasgow’s council housing was in 1999.

Duncan Maclennan is an emeritus professor in urban studies at the University of Glasgow