Regardless of their individual diversity characteristics, what unites our guardians is that they are adaptable, resilient, curious and interested in each other and their neighbours.

So, who do you house?

From our Chief Executive, Peter Brown

We’ve always known that Dot Dot Dot guardians are a dedicated, energetic bunch who are up for sharing their time, skills, energy and compassion through their volunteering. Our work creates homes for people to give their time to support causes they care about.

One of the questions I’m often asked is “so who do you house?” People who haven’t considered being a guardian – or who haven’t heard of the concept – are curious about who would choose to become a guardian. And clients are naturally interested in understanding what kind of person wants to live in their buildings.

We’ve learned more over the last few months about who we house, because we have recently surveyed our guardians about their volunteering and captured demographic information. I’m sharing here a few insights here about the things I see in the data, and you can read more about the benefits our guardians have derived from their volunteering in a blog by Dot Dot Dot’s Founder, Katharine Hibbert.

So what did we learn? First, let’s talk gender. We house more women than men, which perhaps is surprising given property guardianship’s heritage as a ‘security’ activity. That has often conjured up images of guardians roughing it in sub-standard, uncomfortable accommodation, often from the misunderstanding that property guardianship is for would-be security guards who happen to need housing. We turned this the other way round and were clear from the start that we are a housing provider first and foremost (whilst always being clear that we do this on a meanwhile, temporary basis). For us, the important duties that guardians play to support the safety and security of the building where they are based arise alongside that housing.

I think the vetting that we undertake on all guardians is important too, and likely to be reassuring to female applicants, particularly when considering living in shared accommodation. Everyone we house goes through rigorous vetting, and I hope this creates confidence about the values and attributes of housemates that any new guardian will be living alongside. Everyone approaching us for housing knows that everyone else goes through the same vetting and checking process. It can only help too that two-thirds of our staff team are women and that we have always been transparent about our team and who manages our housing (compared to many of our competitors who can be quite cloak and dagger).

Next, on to age. Just over half of Dot Dot Dot guardians are under 34. With younger people disadvantaged in housing and economically locked out of the housing market, it’s not a surprise that more younger people turn to explore other housing ideas such as property guardianship.

The data also shows around one in five of Dot Dot Dot guardians are aged between 45-54 years. There will be likely several reasons for this: we know that some guardians in this age group will be seeking new housing because their life circumstances have changed – perhaps a divorce or a separation. Others in this age group are choosing to try new housing types alongside a deliberate change in their work: becoming entrepreneurs or a change in career that prompts them to choose new surroundings and a new community to live alongside. And at any age, we have guardians seeking the interesting locations and unusual buildings that property guardianship can bring. We know some people love the idea of living in a former school or office building (not always though, and for those we have lots of very ordinary residential buildings on our books!).

When we compare our guardians to the wider London population (where we do the majority of our work) they are more diverse in terms of ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economic background (i.e. those who were in receipt of free school meals). Just under 30% are White British, compared to 44% of the London population; 16% are gay men, gay women or bisexual – compared to 2.6% of the London population; and 28% received free school meals – compared to 17% of both the London and UK populations. It’s a great source of pride to me that we are attracting a broad range of people and providing safe, affordable housing to them.

Regardless of their individual diversity characteristics, what unites our guardians is that they are adaptable, resilient, curious and interested in each other and their neighbours. We hope they share our values and we continue to welcome more of them as we grow and work in new areas and locations.