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Church of England accused of acting unethically over homes sale
The Church of England has been accused of acting unethically and only being interested in profit after it announced it is to press ahead with plans to sell off social housing in central London.
The Church Commissioners have agreed to sell the Octavia Hill estates, housing 1,100 tenants, including key workers like ambulance staff and teachers, despite claims by MPs and Christian housing groups that it is only interested in profit.
The Commissioners say the new owners will be better able to invest in properties while the sale will fund the work of the Church.
But tenants fear their low rents will be hiked up and they will be forced out.
The properties, in Waterloo, Walworth, Vauxhall, Winchester Park and Pimlico, are being sold to social landlord the Genesis Housing Group and private housing supplier the Granger Trust.
A similar sale to the same partnership last year has left tenants facing a 6% rent hike.
A spokesman for the Estates Joint Action Committee, on behalf of the tenants, said it showed the group had "absolutely no interest in our community and are only out to achieve the largest possible return for their investors."
They accuse the Church Commissioners of abandoning the estates' communities and say their action is "totally unethical".
But Paul Clark, chief surveyor for the Church Commissioners, told BBC London that amount had been recommended by an independent rent officer for protected tenancies.
He added: "It's much the same as we would have had to have done under similar circumstances."
The multi-million pound sale of properties has been criticised by MPs, including Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey and former vicar Chris Bryant MP.
She, Simon Hughes MP and Harriet Harman MP had sent a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury over the issue, who has said that the issue might be taken up at the Church of England's synod, which begins today.
Mr Clark told BBC London: "I can't speak for the General Synod, I can just say that the decision has been taken by the Church Commissioners and we are very pleased that this is in the best interests of both residents and the wider church."