The rent strikes

Rent strike posters hit out at high rents
A Labour party rent strike poster

As demand for war workers in the industrial areas around Glasgow increased, the demand for housing rocketed – and so did the rents that landlords charged. However, many homes were of a poor standard and in need of repair.

Increases in rent, as well as the rising price of food meant that those left at home were struggling financially. This led to protests:

  • In February 1915, local women formed the Glasgow Women's Housing Association to resist rent rises.
  • In May 1915 the first rent strike began and soon about 25,000 tenants in Glasgow had joined it.
  • The campaign was effectively organised by women who used propaganda and meetings to get their message across.
  • The radicalisation of the women inspired male factory workers. They began to strike for wage increases, putting the government under pressure.

Government responded with the Rent Restriction Act – this froze rent at 1914 levels unless improvements had been made to the property. The strikers’ demands had been met and wartime production was maintained without disruption.