A block of council-owned pensioner flats in Hamilton's River Rd will be sold to the highest bidder, sparking concerns that social housing agencies won't be able to buy them and tenants will have to move.
An auction for the block is due to take place on Wednesday next week. Lodge Real Estate agent Campbell Scott said he did not believe the sale would appeal to community groups.
Critics say the decision goes against a Hamilton City Council pledge that "sympathetic" buyers would be considered.
Expressions of interest for two other blocks, in Johnson St and the Ascot Reid Ryan pensioner flats, close on Friday next week. The Crosslight Trust has expressed interest in buying the Johnson St property, which is next door to its headquarters.
Tenancy Action Group president Audrey Durose was "gutted" the River Rd property was to be sold at auction and said it almost ruled out any chance of tenants staying on.
"They aren't going to get a look in. It's going to go to the highest bidder and that's all there is. It's right there by the Claudelands Bridge and it will fetch a top price because of the land."
A River Rd tenant said residents were worried at the thought of being forced to move. "Some have been here for years and to have to shift ... they're churned up about it," the pensioner said.
Councillor Dave Macpherson said the River Rd auction went against the council's pledge and ruled out any chance of entertaining bids from sympathetic buyers.
Blair Bowcott of the council's property department had also been unaware of plans to auction the River Rd property and said it had been the council's intention to let sympathetic buyers put in offers on all sites.
"We have to take the best advice from the agents there. Even at auction we can still receive bids from sympathetic providers and we'll have to look at that on a case-by-case basis."
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker said the method of auction was in line with the council's resolution and told the Herald that any questions about why that process was chosen should be directed to the general manager, Mr Bowcott.
"It doesn't say preference will be given, it says genuine offers will also be considered. So the purpose of that resolution was to make sure the market understood that it was open to anyone including sympathetic housing providers to make offers on the property. An auction doesn't preclude that from happening."By Nikki Preston Email Nikki