University as slum landlord

17 May 1969

This week’s issue of Freedom, the Anarchist Weekly, has this report about the planned picket of the opening of Senate House on the front page:

Students at Liverpool University voted last week to support local tenants in picketing the official opening of a new Senate House. Their protest was against the University as a slum landlord.

The University Administration may own up to 130 houses inside the campus. The property is bought up as a prelude to new University developments. Recently tenants in two streets owned by the University have attacked its failure to keep the property in a fit state for human habitation.

In Vine Street, just bought by the University, the roofs gape and water pours in quite freely. A house with a habitable top floor is a rarity. Entire families have to live and sleep in the basement.

For over 8 years in Melville Place, the University failed to keep the houses in a fit state of repair, to combat the dangers of damp to children, to alleviate squalid overcrowding, or to fight the problem of rat-infestation. The houses were declared unfit for human habitation by the Corporation.

In at least one instance the University bought a house for £75. Since then the tenant has paid a total of £624 in thirty shillings a week rent.

Pressure on the University and the Corporation intensified last autumn with the formation of a Tenants’ Association in the area. In its few months of existence the Tenants’ Association has been successful in fighting cases of repair or rehousing against the University and the Corporation.

The picket of the University’s new Senate House is a protest by the tenants about the conditions in which they are forced to live, many of them with the University as landlord. Senate House cost £600,000 and the opening ceremony – featuring Princess Alexandra- will likely cost £500.

The demonstration by tenants and students will question and condemn the distorted spending priorities of both the University and society as a whole. It will embarrass the University on a prestige occasion.

Gerry Cordon (For the Tenants’ Association, University Soc-Soc, Anarchist and Labour Groups.)

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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