HUNDREDS of residents in Leith are facing eviction after a charitable trust announced it is to sell off its housing stock.
Around 120 flats on Lorne Street are to be put on the market by the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, a foundation that gives financial aid to health and social welfare charities – including those that help the homeless.
It is believed as many as 200 tenants – including young families and the elderly, some of whom have lived there for decades – could be affected by the move. But angry residents, who say they feel “betrayed and traumatised” by the decision, have now banded together in an attempt to form a housing co-operative – the Lorne Community Association (LCA) – to buy up their homes.
They insist there simply aren’t enough unfurnished flats in the local area to deal with the scale of the upheaval, and argue some of their neighbours are too old and vulnerable to be uprooted.
Resident Melanie Weigang, 47, said: “There’s people who have lived here for ages, and people whose parents lived here. It’s across generations and it’s a real community.
“People help each other, and people can’t really live without each other because they need support. It’s very rare nowadays to find [that sense of community], and we really have that on Lorne Street.”
Tenants were told of their impending eviction in June after a letter was sent out to flats informing them that “retention of the trust’s property portfolio was no longer in the interests of the trust”.
But after residents announced their intention to establish a housing cooperative, the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust announced that it would place “a moratorium on any further notices to terminate leases” until January while the viability of the scheme is assessed.
Now tenants are asking for a minimum of 12 months to put their plans into action.
A spokeswoman for the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust said the decision to sell the foundation’s property portfolio in a rolling programme over the next three or four years was “not an easy one to make”.
But she insisted “the steeply rising costs of maintaining and managing the property portfolio” had now “significantly overtaken the funds available to distribute to charity”.
She said “We are aware of the petition lodged with City of Edinburgh Council. The trustees are in discussion with residents and their representatives regarding their desire to look at the possibility of establishing a housing co-operative.
“In light of this, since the beginning of September, the trust has placed a moratorium on any further notices to terminate leases.”
She added: “The trust fully appreciates the effect this decision will have on their tenants and is working closely with all affected tenants to support them through this transition period. A process of dialogue is ongoing. The trust has agreed not to issue any further notices to quit in the meantime.”
A 600-strong petition is calling on the council to help tenants.