A housing association is putting 50 social homes on the open market, sparking concerns they will sold off to private investors.

Poplar Harca says this is “normal asset management” – selling off harder-to-let homes to fund new properties – but Tower Hamlets Council is less convinced.

Mayor John Biggs has written to the association putting forward proposals to keep the vacant homes in the public sector and urged the chief executive to halt the public auction.

In the letter Mayor Biggs said: “I am particularly annoyed that the first news we had of these homes being put up for auction was reading the auction notices, and that there was no courtesy of a written correspondence with the council.”

The options proposed by the mayor would either see the council using the properties as temporary accommodation for homeless families; or buying the properties outright to allow them to remain in public ownership.

Commenting on the letter Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “With thousands of families on our housing waiting list Tower Hamlets needs more affordable homes, not fewer. These properties were built to be council homes, and with such high need in our borough, it’s only right they stay that way.”

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A statement from Poplar Harca said: “This is a normal asset management strategy being undertaken by housing organisations across the country.

“All the income raised will be used to buy new affordable homes. For every property sold, we anticipate buying 1.7 new homes due to the discount that can be achieved from affordable housing requirements.

“Poplar Harca’s board and the Homes and Communities Agency approved this strategy so that we can keep securing new affordable homes to meet local housing demand. We have been liaising with Tower Hamlets Council and the Mayor about the strategy since July 2016.”