Duty bound to justify the enormous expense and disruption in the East End for less than two weeks of TV spectacle, the Commonwealth Games promoters are keen to impress the importance of a Games ‘Legacy’. Much has been made of the fact that the Commonwealth Games Village, constructed as a ‘global showcase’ for athletes quarters, will later be ‘retro-fitted’ into a new riverside housing neighbourhood that will benefit the local population.
Glasgow City Council Leader, Stephen Purcell, has claimed that the Village will be one of “the greatest providers of opportunities” before and after 2014: “After the Games, the Village area will become a vibrant neighbourhood, a flagship for the regeneration of Glasgow’s East End and a visible reminder of the legacy of the Games”. Yet the hype, as ever, requires a reality check. Of the 1,500 houses, 1,200 will be for private sale, while only 300 (or 20%) will be for socially rented housing. The question of who exactly will benefit from the ‘Legacy’ is important. Will local people benefit – or will big business and the wealthy?
The City Council have chummily offered to subsidise the Village site for developers by making the land available at nil cost – this reduces the developers initial borrowing requirements, and increases their long-term potential for profit (at our expense, and our risk). The Council has made it clear that in the current economic climate it will be ‘open for business’, ever ready with ‘flexible’ arrangements to bail out large companies and multinationals as they ‘struggle’ to make a profit (just like the UK government with the banks). Meanwhile the poor are left to foot the bill, and asked to mend and make do.
While Glasgow City Council subsidises developers and homes for the wealthy in one of the most disadvantaged areas in Britain, it is deeply unlikely that the 50% of the local East End population which lives in socially rented housing will be able to afford to buy a home at the Village. Competition for the remaining rentable homes will be severe, and anyway the definition of ‘affordable’ social housing is an ongoing bad joke for housing campaigners. What’s more likely is that the ‘showcase’ homes will be targeted at some of the 20,000 people that the Clyde Gateway Intiative, with the help of Commonwealth Games hype, hopes to attract to the area over the next 25 years.
The truth is that good public housing has never been gifted to the people of Glasgow – it has always been fought for. If local people want to stake a claim on the alleged 10,000 new homes that the Clyde Gateway Initiative claims it will construct, then the time is now to build up existing and new tenants and residents networks that can fight for a quality housing deal.