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Housing focus at last Cork Evolves meeting

Wednesday, 5th September, 2018 4:42pm

A recent Cork seminar heard how two projects have helped to form sustainable communities and improve housing conditions.

Margaret Fraser from North Glasgow Homes and Sean Brady of the Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) Project in Belfast were guest speakers at the final Cork Evolves event which discussed the topic of Community Perspectives on Sustainable Communities.

“One of the strengths of our organisation is that it is community based. We are actually Glasgow’s largest community based housing association,” said Margaret Fraser.

One of the organisation’s aims is to provide affordable and quality housing as well as good neighbourhoods.

A tenant’s rent is calculated monthly and is used in four main ways. This is to pay for repairs and maintenance to a tenant’s home and to set aside some money each year to pay for larger repairs.

Rent is also used to manage the association and the property and to repay any money North Glasgow Homes has borrowed to build or improve the property.

One of the big focuses is to also make sure that their tenants have an education and skills.

It does this by working with primary and secondary schools and also by collaborating with Glasgow University on a community development course.

“This is all about bringing local people together and becoming community activists though the course,” added Margaret.

It also wants job creation to grow in the communities it has on its books and does as much as it can to find jobs for people. An example of this was when the organisation arranged for employers to come to a jobs exhibition with at least one job available for people in the community.

Meanwhile, Sean Brady from the PPR Project spoke about how the organisation uses a human rights based approach to tackle the issues challenging marginalised people.

He said that the model is the same for every group that it organises. The group that are effected tell the PPR Project what the issues are. The Projects tells them about their rights and then the group conduct survey and build up evidence showing what the problems are. A target is then set for the government to fix the situation.

He explained: “If it’s bad today, it should be better tomorrow and if it’s not then the Government aren’t doing their job properly.”

During the Cork Evolves seminar, Sean outlined how the PPR Project was able to improve the living conditions of residents living in a block of flats in North Belfast which were built in the 1950s.

“They were very run down by the time we got knocking on doors. The issues started pouring out. They all reported problems about not being listened to, families living in high rise apartments and heating systems which were more than 20 years old and leading to breathing problems.”

He said that when residents reported these problems they were never fixed but the PPR Project told the residents that they had rights. The residents built up evidence, took photos and conducted surveys.

They launched a report on the problems and they had experts like architects and lawyers agreeing with them, that what the residents wanted fixed was reasonable.

It led to the government engaging with residents and after 18 months 42 families moved to suitable homes, pigeon waste was cleaned from all communal landings and a new sewerage system installed for 380 homes, among other improvements.

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