Develop communities, not profits

Credit: Ka Leung

Jimmy Brock
Writer

Whenever we think of development it’s easy to take the word at face value, and just assume that giving more people homes is an inherently good thing. Yet the proposed accommodation can’t legally be called homes, and is going to displace local institutions and populations for no reason other than profit.

Glasgow’s “oldest pub”, the Old College Bar – that has been serving pints since 1812 – is imminently facing the wrecking ball and is to be replaced by a 326-bed student flat block. This new development will also mean the demolition of 223, 225 and 227 of High Street, as well as numbers 15 and 19-23 of George Street. Some may say that this is, to some extent, the nature of living in a city: old houses are ripped down, and new and improved installments are put in their place. It seems to stand to collective reason that new housing will invigorate the local economy, and benefit the arrivals alike.

This plan, however, will see a private company benefitting from the demolition of a local cornerstone, while giving nothing back to the community whatsoever. Sandra White, MSP for North Kelvin, speaking to The Glasgow Guardian, made it clear that “no one is against students whatsoever”, but rather the businesses that prey on them and don’t care about integration with the local economy and population. She went further, making the point that as they don’t pay business rates, what do they contribute to the local economy at all?

It is clear to anyone that has lived in student housing that it is not made with the interests of students in mind, nor the locals that live there. Most, if not all of us, have sat in our first year student flat and wondered with incredulity how the conditions can be legal. If you’ve lived in Murano Street Student Village, you would have heard the classic icebreaker at some point or another: “you know this place was based off a Swedish prison, right?” This discontent is not because they’re privileged young people moaning about having to cook for themselves, it’s because student housing is not legally categorised as housing.

Depending on the housing company, student accommodation is either categorised as a “hotel” or a “residential institution” – the same category as care homes, boarding schools and hospitals. This means student “housing” doesn’t have to follow government guidelines when it comes to daylight or space. This allows companies to build cramped, poorly constructed housing on the cheap and charge what they want for it. The argument that these kinds of developments benefit students is both ludicrous and laughable.

At a meeting in January, one local judged that there would be a 100% increase in existing student homes if the planned proposals went ahead. Glasgow just doesn’t need more student housing – especially when the whole industry that surrounds private housing is so deeply flawed. This proposal will do nothing for the locals but take away their homes and favourite haunts. And, crucially, it certainly won’t give the students who live there an enjoyable university experience. All that these proposed developments achieve is lining the pockets of private investors that couldn’t care less about the lives involved.