Tenants win the right to carry on living in their flats

Ben Macpherson and Melanie Weigang
Ben Macpherson and Melanie Weigang
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MORE than 150 residents who battled against the threat of eviction are celebrating today after their homes were transferred to a housing association.

The tenants in Lorne Street, Leith, were told 18 months ago that their flats were being put up for sale individually because the landlord, the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, which gives financial aid to health and social welfare charities, could no longer afford to keep them.

But the tenants, some of whom have lived there for decades, united to fight the sell-off.

And now the trust has announced the 92 properties have been sold to Places for People Scotland, a subsidiary of Castle Rock Edinvar, one of Scotland’s leading housing associations and a registered charity.

Melanie Weigang, secretary of the Lorne Community Association, said everyone was thrilled by the move.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” she said. “They are confirming the tenants are safe. I was overwhelmed by the news. It’s just brilliant.”

It was June last year when the tenants got letters informing them that “retention of the trust’s property portfolio was no longer in the interests of the trust”.

Ms Weigang said: “It has been draining how long it has gone on - but it was worth fighting for.

“It shows that it pays off to stand up and fight and not just accept things.”

Alister Steele, managing director of Castle Rock Edinvar/Places for People Scotland, said they were pleased to be able to end a period of uncertainty.

“We will now begin a dialogue with the residents to give reassurance on our commitment to the future of the properties and to discuss our services and investment plans.”

Ben Macpherson, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, who backed the tenants, said he was delighted with the outcome.

He said: “It is fantastic and a relief that this agreement has been achieved for the residents of Lorne Street, who have campaigned so hard over the last year. They will now be able to, rightfully, continue living in their homes with the security of knowing that they will not be evicted.”

And city council housing leader Councillor Cammy Day also welcomed the announcement.

He said: “I’m really pleased Places for People have agreed to purchase the 92 properties with immediate effect. It will be a huge weight off the tenants’ shoulders to know they have a good, responsible social landlord who will invest in these properties.”

Green housing spokesman Steve Burgess said: “The tenants should never have been exposed to the anxieties and fears of the last 18 months. Tenants of all landlords need to have the comfort of long term tenancies, affordable rents and proper repairs.”

Walter Thomson, Chairman of the Miss Agnes Hunter Trust, said: “The sale will enable the trustees to carry out the specified wishes of Miss Hunter by maintaining the financial grants to registered charities which support people suffering from arthritis and cancer, physical disability and mental health problems or learning disabilities, or which provide youth education and training for disadvantaged people.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com