Lorne Street tenants ‘may be saved from eviction’

Sharon Anderson, with children Kera and Devin, protests against their possible eviction in October. Picture: Toby Williams
Sharon Anderson, with children Kera and Devin, protests against their possible eviction in October. Picture: Toby Williams
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HUNDREDS of Leith residents facing eviction could be saved after a housing association announced it was considering buying up their homes.

More than 80 flats on Lorne Street are being sold off by the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, which gives financial aid to health and social welfare charities. But yesterday the Port of Leith Housing Association revealed it was looking into buying the properties and securing them for the community.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of the Port of Leith, said the company was “very pleased to be working with the Trust and with the Lorne Community Association” to find a way of keeping the homes for affordable rent in the long term.

Lorne Street tenants were told in June they faced eviction after a letter was sent by the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust informing them that “retention of the trust’s property portfolio was no longer in the interests of the trust”. The charity, which gives out £350,000 in charitable grants each year, said it can no longer afford to keep the flats as the cost of managing and maintaining them has ballooned.

As many as 200 tenants – including young families and the elderly, some of whom have lived there for decades – are set to be affected by the move.

But angry residents have since joined together to form the Lorne Community Association in an attempt to keep their homes – with hopes they could eventually set up a housing co-operative to buy them.

A moratorium on the tenants’ evictions has been extended from January to July next year to allow time for all the options to be examined.

Resident Melanie Weigang, 47, said locals were due to meet with the Port of Leith Housing Association last night to discuss the way forward.

She said: “This is a very positive step ... This is what we wanted in the beginning, but we will still consider also looking into forming a housing co-op. Nothing will be decided until Easter or April.

“The aim is that local people can stay in their homes and the community will be saved. We are really happy with what’s happening right now, but there’s still a long way to go.”

She said the uncertainty of the last few months had been “wearing people out” and putting pressure on her old and vulnerable neighbours.

Walter Thomson, chairman of the trustees at the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, said: “The trustees are acutely aware that it is real people and families that will be affected by any decision and look forward to working with Port of Leith with a view to finding a possible solution that could satisfy all parties involved.”

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s health, social care and housing vice-convenor, said: “The efforts of the tenants in working with the council, trustees and housing associations is to be commended.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com