Property guardianship makes good use of temporarily vacant buildings, offering affordable accommodation for people at a lower cost than private rentals, whilst keeping properties secure.
As well as detailing with its members how they best apply the government advice on the additional health and safety measures required to contain and delay the spread of the coronavirus, the PGPA has also highlighted how buildings, suddenly vacated because of the ‘lockdown’, are at significantly greater risk than occupied properties, from vandalism, arson and squatting.
By occupying them, property guardians greatly reduce both the risks to the buildings, and, consequently, also cutting the costs to local authorities and owners of security, or dealing with the aftermath of vandalism or neglect. Additionally, people renting in the private sector who are worried and anxious about spending a large proportion of their income on accommodation during this crisis, can benefit from cutting their home costs by about half, by becoming a property guardian.
"As it happens, approximately a third of property guardians are key workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, police and emergency services workers, who choose to be property guardians so that they can live nearer their work,” says Graham Sievers, chairman of the PGPA. “Our association can help both property owners who are suddenly coping with vacated buildings, and also people seeking an alternative to spending up to two thirds of their income on accommodation during these uncertain, precarious times."
But Mr Sievers follows with a cautionary note: "However, it must be emphasised that not all properties are suitable to be converted into a guardian site, and likewise, the guardian lifestyle, although much more affordable than the private rental sector, is not suitable for everyone. It won’t work for families, or for people who have been laid off work. The very nature of the ‘temporariness’ of the properties also means people must be flexible and adaptable. But for those who understand that, then its an absolute boon."
The PGPA was formed last year and this year independent safety audits of PGPA member's properties has been introduced – only members of the PGPA are subject to to a safety, health and environmental check, at short notice. Guardian companies operating outside of the association are not part of this programme.
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The property guardian model first began in the Netherlands in the 1990s, where there is also a serious housing shortage and private rental accommodation in the cities can commonly take up to 70% of an average person’s income. The guardian sector has grown there to provide approximately 30,000-35,000 people with affordable accommodation, which for a country with 17 million population, would equate to more than 100,000 people in the UK. Property guardians in the UK could also become a significant support to help ease accommodation shortages.
There are hundreds of thousands of houses, apartments, offices and public buildings standing empty across the UK, whilst they undergo redevelopment planning and fund raising. And yet there are also hundreds of thousands of people who want to find affordable accommodation nearer to where they work. Many guardians choose this option to save up for a deposit for their first own home, or to invest in their business.
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