Page last updated at 07:55 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Slum landlord hit squad proposed


The director of Govanhill Housing Association, Anne Lear has called for action

Slum landlords could be tackled by special council "hit squads" under a suggestion made by a Scottish government minister.

Housing minister Alex Neil put forward the idea after Holyrood's public petitions committee heard about problems in Glasgow's Govanhill area.

He said some living conditions in the area were "totally unacceptable for the 19th, never mind the 21st Century".

Mr Neil said he would consider granting councils additional powers.

And he said both the Scottish government and Glasgow City Council were determined to tackle the problems in Govanhill.

He added: "The kind of imaginative initiative I would like us to look at is the possibility, for example, of establishing a special hit squad."

Mr Neil suggested this could be used to ensure landlords were complying with the registration scheme which was brought in to protect tenants from rogue landlords."

Concerns have been raised over the effects of conditions on health

He added that this could help "break the back of this slum landlord problem in Govanhill".

The minister stated: "We actually need to clear them out and sort them out, and maybe we need a special hit squad."

The committee earlier heard about problems with infestations of cockroaches and bedbugs in Govanhill.

Committee convener Frank McAveety, who is also the local MSP, told how one resident had 14 rats in their back garden after rubbish built up.

SNP backbencher Anne McLaughlin said she had been shocked by what she witnessed during the committee's visit to the area.

She said: "I'm not easily shocked, I've seen some terrible things, but I was absolutely horrified with what some people were having to put up with in terms of living conditions. It was an absolute disgrace."

Anne Lear, the director of Govanhill Housing Association, had earlier said the area should have "some kind of special status".

She told MSPs: "The reason we say that is because there is nowhere else in Scotland that has 1,200 unimproved properties, 75% at least of which are owned by the private sector and are not being regulated."

The special evidence session came as a result of a petition to parliament submitted by Govanhill Housing Association on behalf of residents from the area, on the south side of the city.

Tackle shortages

Govanhill has some of the most severe housing problems in the UK, with an estimated 1,200 slum flats.

Ms Lear raised concerns over links with a growing number of private slum landlords to agency gangmasters and organised crime.

She said tens of millions of extra pounds needed to be pumped into the Govanhill area alone, to bring homes up to standard.

The cross-party petitions committee is hoping the evidence it heard could influence the Scottish government's Housing Bill, which aims to boost affordable homes and improve conditions in housing across all sectors.

The proposed legislation, currently going through parliament, aims to update laws on private landlord registration, the licensing of houses in multiple occupation and dealing with disrepair in private homes.

The bill would also abolish the right to buy for all new council and social housing tenants to tackle shortages in rented homes.

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