In the first of a series of blogs about inspirational innovations that are disrupting the private rented sector we spotlight social enterprise Dot Dot Dot.
Dot Dot Dot is making a big difference in housing with a fantastic concept they have turned into a thriving reality. They place property guardians, who look after empty houses and commercial properties on behalf of owners, in vacant properties ensuring that they are kept tidy and cared for. Property guardianship brings buildings that would otherwise stand empty, back into use as housing. Empty properties are one of the many issues that are contributing to our current housing crisis and so this is both a timely and effective solution.
These buildings can be anything that is suitable to be used or converted into appropriate accommodation: offices, flats, houses, churches, former GP’s surgeries, even disused fire stations. This provides security to the property owner while the building is empty, and provides cheaper housing for the guardians living there. This solution-focused model is both growing and affordable.
Finding affordable housing is the key challenge for many young people, especially in London and the south-east. Using the property guardianship model Dot Dot Dot has found a way of offering inexpensive accommodation, costing on average £480 per month as compared to the London average of £800.
But Dot Dot Dot is more than just a property guardian agency, all the guardians Dot Dot Dot works with must also commit to volunteering, providing a gift of 16 hours a month of their time. This is what is so great about Dot Dot Dot, they are making an impact on the blight which neglected and boarded up houses can inflict on neighbourhoods, and to add to that they are contributing to social change through volunteering.
Dot Dot Dot plays an active role in the volunteering done too. If guardians don’t have volunteer projects they are already committed to, they help them find what they want to do and make links in the communities they are involved in to make that work happen. They also connect volunteers in those communities. For example in High Wycombe they have a group of tenants who are all involved in volunteer projects, they all know each other and meet socially. On the Peabody Estate in Thamesmead, tenants are guardians in empty properties and many of them are involved in the creative arts so they volunteer in local projects to strengthen the delivery of creative projects in the area.
It’s a great innovation with a synergy that connects empty housing with people, enabling them to give the gift of their time and contribute to the areas they live in so that they can thrive.
So how did it all start?
Katharine Hibbert the founder of Dot Dot Dot has worked on the issue of empty housing for many years as a journalist and consultant. In 2011 Katharine decided to move from talking about the problem to doing something about it. Her deep knowledge of the sector gave her credibility. So she utilized this expertise to embark on her journey to build the ground-breaking Dot Dot Dot venture which has gone from strength to strength. For Katharine and her team, there is no shortage of would-be property guardians who want to volunteer to support local communities. They work hard to ensure a steady supply of buildings for guardians to live in, this barrier to scale is indicative of the shortage of available properties, one of the symptoms of the current housing crisis.
We asked Katharine about Reimagining Rent, our new housing innovation programme funded by The Nationwide Foundation which will support a group of innovations making the private rented sector work better, particularly for vulnerable people and those on low incomes.
What’s great about this programme is that the entrepreneurs on it will not be going on their innovation journeys alone, an issue many founders experience. Connecting to a mutual support network and peer learning to grow ventures is a crucial attribute of the Reimagining Rent programme. Access to investment is also a real asset. I wish this programme all my best and hope it grows many more innovations that improve the Private Rented Sector.
Click here for more information about our new Reimagining Rent programme supporting housing innovations like Dot Dot Dot.