The 1915 Rent Strikes in Glasgow, along with similar campaigns across the UK, catalysed rent restrictions and eventually public housing as a right, with a legacy of progressive improvement in UK housing through the central decades of the 20th century.
With the decimation of social housing and the resurgence of a profoundly exploitative private housing market, the contemporary political economy of housing now shares many distressing features with the situation one hundred years ago. Starting with a re-appraisal of the Rent Strikes, this book asks what housing campaigners can learn today from a proven organisational victory for the working class. A series of investigative accounts from scholar-activists and housing campaign groups across the UK charts the diverse aims, tactics and strategies of current urban resistance, seeking to make a vital contribution to the contemporary housing question in a time of crisis.
Preface: Seán Damer, Housing and Direct Action’ / Introduction: Neil Gray, ‘Rent Unrest: From the 1915 Rent Strikes to Contemporary Housing Agitation’ / Part 1: History Against the Grain / Chapter 1: Pam Currie, ‘“A Wondrous Spectacle”: Protest, Class and Femininity in the 1915 Rent Strikes’ / Chapter 2: Annmarie Hughes and Valerie Wright, ‘What Did the Rent Strikers Do Next? Women and “The Politics of the Kitchen” in Interwar Scotland’ / Chapter 3: Tony Cox, ‘“Oary”’ Dundee and Working Class Self-Organization in the 1915 Rent Strike’ / Chapter 4: Neil Gray, ‘Spatial Composition and the Urbanization of Capital: The 1915 Glasgow Rent Strikes and the Housing Question Reconsidered’ / Part 2: Reports from the Housing Frontline / Chapter 5: Vickie Cooper and Kirsteen Paton, ‘Everyday Eviction in the Twenty-First Century’ / Chapter 6: Michael Byrne, ‘Tenant Self-Organization after the Irish Crisis: The Dublin Tenants Association’ / Chapter 7: Living Rent (Emma Saunders, Kate Samuels and Dave Statham), ‘Rebuilding a Shattered Housing Movement: Living Rent and Contemporary Private Tenant Struggles in Scotland’ / Chapter 8: Paul Watt, ‘Social Housing Not Social Cleansing’: Contemporary Housing Struggles in London / Part 3: Rethinking the Housing Question: Theories, Aims, Tactics and Strategies for Today / Chapter 9: Hamish Kallin and Tom Slater, ‘The Myth and Realities of Rent Control’ / Chapter 10: Rory Hearne, Cian O'Callaghan, Rob Kitchin, and Cesare Di Feliciantonio, ‘The Relational Articulation of Housing Crisis and Activism in Post-Crash Dublin, Ireland’ / Chapter 11: Sarah Glynn, ‘“Only Alternative Municipal Housing”’: Making the Case for Public Housing Then and Now’ / Chapter 12: Tim Joubert and Stuart Hodkinson, ‘Beyond the Rent Strike, Towards the Commons: Why the Housing Question Requires Activism that Generates its Own Alternatives’ / Afterword: Neil Gray, ‘The Futures of Housing Activism’
This compelling book reminds us that decent housing has been fought for and won through struggle, by thousands of people in grass-roots campaigns, in direct action and protest, over one hundred years. It demonstrates the achievements and the continuing urgency of need in the long campaign for a fairer housing system.
This book covers some vital issues for housing campaigners everywhere: rent strikes, the role of women, the myth of housing associations and social cleansing to name but four. As Neil Gray reminds us, it arrives at a key moment. The demand for decent, secure, truly affordable and safe homes for all is growing, but not yet won. Rent and its Discontents will help.
The importance of this edited volume is threefold. Firstly, it offers a critical re-reading of historical rent struggles, secondly, it encourages comparisons between diverse rental issues and conditions for tenants’ organising, and thirdly, it promotes situated knowledge-production that combines academic and activist expertise, all of which are essential to understand and politicise rent as key to contemporary forms of capital accumulation and housing enclosures.
Essential reading for anyone interested in the history of tenant activism and contemporary housing struggles. Accessible and engaging, Rent and its Discontents explores the hidden continuum of tenant struggles in Britain and Ireland and highlights the relevance of these campaigns for those fighting today for decent, secure and affordable rented homes.
In this well edited book a range of contributors revisit and rethink the Glasgow Rent Strikes of a century ago; very effectively linking this to insightful analysis of contemporary housing movements and asking searching questions about the politics and strategies of the housing struggle today. Essential reading.
Here is a lineup of tenant activists and key academic activist researchers from across the UK and Ireland reflecting on historic and current housing struggles. Taking their starting point in the 1915 Scottish rent strikes contributors on the frontline of campaigns report on eviction and social cleansing in England and rebuilding of tenant movements in Scotland and Dublin. They leave us with some thoughts on current housing movement theories and tactics. The book will give heart to the dwindling band of critical housing academics and will be an important source of useful knowledge for students and social movement activists.
Neil Gray is an urban researcher, writer and lecturer and a long-term housing activist. He is currently working as a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow.