Tenants get active
Marjorie Gallimore MBE, Liverpool HAT tenant board member © Liverpool HAT
The 1960s saw the rise of organised tenant groups. Management of new housing estates became faceless and it was hard to get repairs done. Tenants started to feel ignored. It was time to challenge the rules, regulations and corporate nature of housing. At a local level tenant groups sprang up across the city.
"At the first meeting we got a hundred peopleâ€¦ it turned out that everyone on the estate had a complaint against the Council."
Marjorie Gallimore OBE, who moved to Hartsbourne Heights, Childwall in 1962
In 1968 a mass meeting of 2500 tenants voted not to pay an unfair increase in rent charges. Five months later they had secured a standard increase for all resulting in 30,000 tenants paying lower rents. This was the first big victory for tenant activists in Liverpool.
The experience of trade unionism had found a new opening in council house politics and helped shape the future of tenant activism.
Down and out
The 1970s and 1980s was a period of economic decline. Urban areas suffered hard as traditional industries collapsed. Council housing was affected too asfunding was cut and housing became run down. In Liverpool unemployment was high. People left the city to find work. Those who remained saw their housing estates worsen as poor management and lack of funds for repairs took hold.
Social problems grew as people became cut off from society. Drugs offered some an easy way out. The associated crime and vandalism made many areas less than desirable to live in.
Many of the Liverpool tower blocks became badly run down. Some had no front doors creating a security problem. Young people would use the lifts as their playground. They had nowhere else to go. Leaking windows and faulty heating made life unbearable for many tenants.
"Well druggies were in, we didn't have CCTV and anyone could come in and out of the flats..."
Vera Cook former resident of Winterburn Heights
Voting for change
The 1988 Housing Act offered a choice. It supported the possibility of a Housing Action Trust (HAT) for Liverpool. Moneywould begiven to the trust to spend rather than the council.
The tenant movement in Liverpool saw this as a threat. They wanted to remain united in their cause to improve living conditions. But a choice had to be made and across the city houses were in desperate need of repair. The Liverpool High Rise Tenants Group (HRTG) explored the option of a HAT and decided it was the only way to improve their homes.
"The council hadn't got the money to do anything with these flatsâ€¦I had to go to the Housing Committee and ask them could we have a vote."
Marjorie Gallimore OBE, chair of Liverpool High Rise Tenants Group, 1992
In 1993 a ballot was held in each of the 71 tower blocks. A majority decision to leave council control was needed from each block. 67 tower blocks and 83% of tenants voted YES.
In October 1993 the Liverpool Housing Action Trust was formed.
View towards London Road from Seacombe Tower, Everton © Photography by Guy Woodland