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Jul 28 2013

A win win solution to empty houses and weakening community cohesion

The media regularly reports on England’s growing housing crisis, with ever growing estimates of the shortfall of homes. With news last week that there were £6.9 million births between 2001 and 2011, but yet only 1.6 million new homes built (source: National Housing Federation), it would seem as though this situation is unlikely to abate.

But then take a look around you. It’s obvious to see that not all houses are being fully occupied. In fact, based on council tax information there are 710,000 empty properties sat unused across England, and over 72,000 in London alone (source: Empty Homes Nov 2012). So if we used our housing stock to full capacity then the pressure on building homes, and acquiring development sites, would be significantly eased.

So that’s why I applaud the efforts of Dot Dot Dot, an innovative social enterprise who are striving to see empty homes generate social value. They provide landlords with a ‘guardian’ service whereby they will find renters who will live in their empty properties, without the usual tenancy rights, thereby providing a flexible security solution and also an income. In return for keeping the property tidy and cared for the guardians pay below market rent which reduces their financial pressures. Crucially though, Dot Dot Dot also requires their tenants to commit to volunteering to contribute to their local community for at least 16 hours a month.

That way, it’s win win. Not just for landlords and tenants, but also neighbours and the community.  The blight of an empty house is replaced by a person who not only restores the space to being a home, but works to bring other value to local places and people. For instance, by volunteering to tend a local garden, visiting a lonely older person, or lending a hand at a youth group.

We are really delighted to have recently been working with Dot Dot Dot’s dynamic team to help them to build their communications skills, and ability to segment their target audiences. We hope many more empty properties will be filled and communities benefit from their very own guardian angel next door.