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Case study – LAR Housing Trust – From a colourful past to a bright future with LAR Housing Trust

Using empty buildings for affordable housing 

Scottish based charity, Lar Housing Trust, is currently converting a semi derelict and disused church into high quality mid-market rental homes. While this did not start of as an empty house, this building will be transformed into quality, affordable homes showing what is possible.

Designed by renowned Scottish architect John More Peddie in the late 19th century, St Kentigern’s Church in the Polwarth area of Edinburgh has been lying empty for several years. The church and grounds have been a high profile, canal-side eyesore for some time and achieved some notoriety as the subject of a police raid several years ago, which unearthed a cannabis farm at the site.

Lar decided that this derelict building with a colourful past, deserved to also enjoy a bright future. Their plans will have been warmly welcomed by the local community.

The superb external façade of the building is being retained and construction is underway to convert the church itself into four much needed three and four bedroom homes. Sitting alongside the conversion will be a new block of flats consisting of four one-bed, four two-bed and two-three bed homes. This marriage of old and new will breathe new life into the area and make better use of a building that has also served as a garage and warehouse before falling into disrepair.

This is just one of a number of projects completed or underway by Lar, with the organisation having already taken on complex conversions of empty homes, offices and commercial premises across Scotland.

Whilst many organisations avoid empty properties, largely due to the financial and design risks involved, these are projects that Lar actively seeks out. Building a new home that people are proud to live in is always a joy, but to take something that is derelict, abandoned, dangerous and unloved and turning it into a fabulous affordable new home brings twice the pleasure. Lar’s aim with projects that repurpose buildings is also driven by a sustainability agenda aiming to keep as much of the original structure on site as possible, so that the carbon capture within those buildings is retained. With the character of the building remaining and fitting seamlessly into its immediate surroundings, the new homes already have their roots within the community and make for a much more sympathetic build.

Lar has already completed projects to convert an empty office block in Edinburgh’s west end into 47 flats and a derelict block of flats in Edinburgh into six specialist homes for people with learning disabilities and autism. The organisation’s pipeline also includes conversion plans for two commercial premises in Glasgow and a former naval barracks in Port Edgar, with others still to come.