Providing reassurance to residents in Shoreham-by-Sea

August 18, 2021

We added another seaside location to our portfolio in December 2020 when we partnered with Southern Housing Group, a not for profit housing association, in Shoreham-by-Sea. As Southern Housing Group relocated existing residents of The Mannings estate, Dot Dot Dot took on four flats in late December, housing four guardians for the duration of the six month project. 

A greater sense of safety for existing residents

The Mannings project was unusual in that we were brought in towards the end of the residents’ rehousing. Southern Housing Group had grown concerned that there was one remaining family in an emptied area of the estate that had grown increasingly vulnerable to ASB. We knew from the outset that Southern Housing Group needed to secure the properties quickly. Our experience of housing guardians alongside vulnerable residents and commitment to understanding both the Group’s and the residents’ needs made us best placed to take on the project.

Southern Housing Group’s key consideration was the safety of their residents. Like Dot Dot Dot, they exist to help the communities in which they work, and our aligned values made a strong foundation for the partnership. Residents from the estate were involved in key stages of the selection process, allowing them to have a say in who was appointed.

It was important to Southern Housing Group that any new neighbours would not only be responsible but well-managed. As part of our proposal, we included a profile of Jess, Dot Dot Dot’s relationship coordinator (RC) in charge of property and guardian management at The Mannings, to provide reassurance and a personal touch. With the lowest relationship coordinator to guardian ratio in the sector, our RCs each look after 75 guardians, allowing them to develop supportive relationships and address any issues effectively. 

We also made it clear to our prospective guardians that it was important they built a good relationship with remaining residents in the block. We build good neighbourliness into our model because we know that our guardians, by virtue of their volunteering (each guardian volunteers for 16 hours per month for good causes), make great neighbours and responsible temporary residents.

Our agile approach at Shoreham-by-Sea

We were brought onto the project at The Mannings to provide an effective short-term solution for Southern Housing Group, who needed not only to ensure the safety of the emptying estate, but the safety of their residents as quickly as possible.

Our agile approach allowed us to set out a quick setup plan, bringing four properties up to standard and moving our first guardians in by the end of January, just a month after signing the management agreement. It is testament to the dexterity of our approach and the hard work of the Dot Dot Dot team that we were able to take on a project over Christmas, at the start of a new lockdown and away from our London headquarters with such a quick turnaround.

As we had come onto the project at a late stage in the rehousing process, it was also vital that we could ensure a smooth handover once our service was no longer needed, six months after we moved our first guardian in. Southern Housing Group were impressed with our service, commenting that “Dot Dot Dot were a pleasure to work with from start to finish. All departments and officers were helpful, understanding, and knowledgeable. We didn’t have any issues with the property hand back and there was clear communication and expectations set, which meant it all went smoothly.” 

We set out expectations right from the start, offering transparency and giving our clients peace of mind that we can guarantee vacant possession within 30 days of being given notice, which was particularly important given the short-term and sensitive nature of The Mannings project.

Introducing additional security: Vigilance

As Southern Housing Group continued to rehouse residents in different areas of the estate, more areas started to become vulnerable and there were concerns over an increase in ASB. Due to the condition of the properties, guardianship was not a viable option, but we recommended Vigilance, an ethical security company, to provide hard security services at the estate. Vigilance employs ex-Armed Forces personnel to help them reintegrate back into the workforce, and their commitment to social value both through their work and support for the Gurkha Welfare Trust make us proud to partner with them. 

Our commitment not only to our clients’ needs but also to existing, often vulnerable, residents makes us best placed to navigate sensitive contexts and complex needs in estates like The Mannings. We work closely with our clients through often changing and challenging circumstances, offering alternative solutions like Vigilance in addition to providing property guardianship with purpose. Despite The Mannings project’s short lifespan of six months, we were still able to deliver approximately £608 worth of social value, alongside great neighbours and a greater sense of safety for the remaining families. 

If you want to find out more about how we can cater to complex empty property needs, sign up to our newsletter, Meanwhile Thoughts, or contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

What “doing our best work” means in practice

July 22, 2021

One of our key goals at Dot Dot Dot is to “do our best work”. That mantra is meaningful to us because it expresses several different important concepts at once, explains our CEO, Peter Brown.

These concepts link our identity as a social enterprise to our choices about how we go about doing the work that we do.  I’m clear that everything we do at Dot Dot Dot must contribute to our mission of providing housing that makes it easier for people to do good, and understanding the conditions that need to be in place to achieve that is vital.

Our tenth birthday has provided a welcome opportunity to reflect on all of the projects we have set up, the areas where we have worked, the people we have housed and the hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteering that our model has supported. We have been thinking about what worked well and of course about the times when we could have found better ways of doing things. 

How best work translates into great results

Dot Dot Dot’s mission hasn’t changed and the company values that we are well known for aren’t changing either. But by exploring the concept of ‘best’, all of our staff can form a view of how they can combine their skill, energy and professional commitment to deliver exceptional results.

Results here can be seen through the lens of social impact, or through creating consistent housing that’s both safe and well-managed, or when considering the financial performance of our operations. It’s also the case that the positive results of our work can be felt in several directions too, because our social enterprise business model has benefits to several groups all at once: the people we house benefit personally and financially, the communities where we have buildings benefit from great neighbours who are community-minded, charities and good causes benefit from our guardians’ volunteering, and of course our clients benefit too.

For me, the phrase “doing our best work” also fits with a more focused way of thinking about and describing the value that we create. So for our marketing and services teams, it’s about making sure we recruit and house guardians that are diligent, conscientious and who make socially responsible occupants. There are plenty of housing choices and options out there, and we choose to house people who understand our approach and who will benefit from our good-value accommodation. It’s our guardians who look after our clients’ buildings, who will vacate the buildings when we need them to, and who will contribute to communities through their volunteering, so our choices about who to house is crucially important. We know that people who are committed to supporting charitable causes are more likely to be conscientious about looking after our clients’ buildings, to be good neighbours to our clients’ existing residents, and to have the support network and resilience necessary to leave their homes with 28 days’ notice.

Finding the clients who allow us to do our best work

For our business development team, it’s about finding buildings where we can apply our efficient and effective management model to make appealing temporary homes that meet our safety standards, all while delivering projects which are financially viable for all involved. We seek clients who understand the inextricable link between our model and the quality of service we can provide as a result, and who may also be excited about our social impact creation in the communities where their buildings are based. Our model has always been distinctive, and, as we embark on our second decade of existence, we continue to demonstrate how the fact we exist to create a positive social impact actually allows us to deliver a better service to clients and communities.

If you’d like a conversation about how we look after your empty buildings and how our distinctive approach to property guardianship can help you, get in touch at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com

On the ground: Regeneration schemes and gradual decants – build and flex

May 20, 2021

Last month our Director of Services, Mark Ackroyd, explained how we put in place the right support for regeneration schemes and other long, gradual decant programmes. In that first piece, he explained how we like to understand the properties, project and community to deliver a tailored service.  In this follow-up, he explains how tailored workflows and a flexible long-term approach can help our clients to achieve their goals.

Build a workflow that fits around the client

Our careful up-front research gives us a strong chance to hit the ground running in a regeneration or decant project. As well as giving us useful knowledge and a tailored model, we have already engaged in great conversations with our new clients, which helps us to establish working relationships quickly when the work starts.

Part of this preparation is about the detailed work of designing procedures and workflows that fit around our client’s existing operations and teams. This is key to the success of regeneration or decant projects. We need to be able to receive, manage and return properties to the client in a way that fits with their resources and needs.

At an operational level, this means understanding how the client wants to prepare and handle properties before handing them over to us. This usually involves agreeing a clear specification for the client’s voids or maintenance teams to follow. This will cover familiar areas such as:

  • Gas and electrical compliance
  • Clearance
  • Key cutting and locks
  • Fire safety systems

Some clients will do significant work and others will do none – this varies according to each client’s compliance needs, budgets and operational priorities. Our work needs to fit around the agreed specification, filling the gaps and ensuring that the property handover process is smooth and efficient. Getting this ‘recipe’ right is a key step – it gives our clients certainty about their own workflow, it allows us to make detailed plans, and it gives us an insight into the unique pressures and preferences of a new organisation or team.

Beyond that, we will also put in place the tracking, reporting, administrative and compliance elements of our service so that each client can access the right service and the right information in a way that works for them.

As well as the obvious property management issues, each client’s way of working needs to be accommodated. This is not just about ‘receiving’ properties, but also to their ongoing management and maintenance.

  • How are utilities handled and how should we transfer those services effectively?
  • Do operational staff prefer to share documents in paper form, by email or by using shared online drives and documents?
  • Do the client’s teams want us on site so that we can react to a flexible timetable? Or do they want a more structured approach with fixed schedules?
  • Do clients want us to liaise directly with their contractors and suppliers? Or should we work directly via the client’s own representatives?
  • Does the client have specific policy or practical requirements around anniversary or repeat compliance checks?
  • Are there particular elements of housekeeping or maintenance that are particularly important for the client? Perhaps one area or block needs special attention?

These are just some of the factors that we consider, and although this seems like a lot of detail, we are able to get ‘under the hood’ of these requirements quickly by combining our wide experience with good quality client conversations.  We have our own standards for high quality guardians and well-managed housing, and we understand how those can be delivered in a wide variety of operational contexts. We love the challenge of moulding our service so that we become a flexible and low-hassle part of each client’s toolkit.

A lot of this is worked out at the proposal stage before a contract starts, but detailed process-building continues after we are on the ground and working closely together with clients. We like to build high quality relationships with both decision-makers and operational staff within our client organisations. This allows us to respond intelligently and quickly, to find efficiencies, and to pre-empt risks and difficulties. 

Flex and change with the project

Regeneration and decant programmes can change and evolve significantly over time. Our detailed planning is not just about what a client needs now, but also about what could change in the future, and our experience helps us to understand how our service may need to adapt.

We are typically prepared for the changes in size, pace and structure that could affect us, but we are also used to responding flexibly to unforeseen issues. By working collaboratively with our clients, we constantly review the outlook and risks for each project, and we are ready to adjust plans rapidly if needed.

This could mean tweaking a compliance policy to address an area of risk, or overhauling our entire contract to take on a new range of responsibilities. We often have insights and ideas from previous work that will help us and our clients to navigate changes. Although the details of every project will vary, there are common challenges that we are used to addressing:

  • Delays that mean old buildings are kept in use for longer
  • Changes in financial or political priorities meaning that the speed or scale of our work changes quickly or that previous decisions about properties need to be reversed
  • Changes to other suppliers that affect teams, workflows and responsibilities
  • Policy or legislative changes requiring us to evolve alongside our clients
  • Issues or crises in the local area that require us to change the focus of our social impact, resident liaison or other work

These are just a few examples of the issues that we have tackled with clients in the past. Because we can draw on insights from multiple projects and organisations, we can be a useful source of stability and knowledge for teams facing new phases or transitions in their major programmes.  An important part of our approach is that we structure our service to be effective throughout the lifetime of a project, with in-built flexibility and resilience, and a commitment to long-term outcomes.

Working sensitively to support regeneration programmes or the decant of multiple properties has always been a core part of Dot Dot Dot’s work. This experience informs every part of our operations, and we take pride in supporting clients in a tailored way through their most challenging and important programmes. 

 

If you would like to find out more about how we could work with you on a new or existing project, contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com

Working with property developers across the country to care for empty buildings and the communities around them

May 20, 2021

With our deep understanding of working in large regeneration contexts, it is unsurprising that some of our client list is made up of housing associations and local councils. Yet the reality is that we have collaborated with a wide variety of clients with varying needs, and we have a broad experience of working with property developers to provide vacant property management through housing guardians, and support their redevelopment processes. This breadth of experience is what makes our model so successful – we are able to draw on all of our past experiences to deliver the best service for our clients.

In this month’s blog, we will be taking a look at how this manifests in our partnerships with property developers, in particular in Marylebone, Cambridgeshire and Purley. We explore how our experience of working with different types of building and a diverse client base has given us the knowledge to best support our clients, not just in their vacant property needs and redevelopment plans but in stakeholder relationship building and fulfilling their CSR objectives.

Supporting relationships with stakeholders

For any client looking to secure an empty building, the needs of all stakeholders – be that local residents, councils or planning authorities – must be taken into account. For property developers in particular, this is key when asking for planning permission from the relevant authorities. 

Working with a social enterprise is valuable for property developers because it can help maintain strong relationships. In 2018, we started working with Dorrington to secure an empty property with plans for redevelopment in Marylebone. Dorrington’s plans were dependent on planning permission from Westminster Council, and thus it was essential that they maintain a good relationship with the council in the interim. 

Due to our holistic approach, we were able to work closely with Dorrington and ensure that the property was well looked after, secure and ready for council inspections.  We were also able to use our varied experience of working with councils to support relationship-building with Westminster.

In Purley, where we worked with Peer Group to secure a large commercial property, we agreed that there would be staff presence on site once a week to provide access to third parties. Maintaining good relationships with third parties ensured that essential works could be carried out to support the redevelopment process, and Peer Group were able to allocate time and resources elsewhere.

A flexible approach

Flexibility is a key component of our work at Dot Dot Dot. For property developers in particular, redevelopment plans can have unknown timeframes and plans can change quickly, so long-term commitments are not always possible. 

In Cambridgeshire, we have partnered with This Land to secure a variety of properties, including residential flats, farmhouses, an education centre and former student accommodation. When plans for the student accommodation came to fruition, we were able to ensure a smooth hand back within 30 days. At the start of each project, a Relationship Coordinator is assigned to deal with any guardian and compliance issues, and this ensures that there is a staff member to manage the hand back process at the end of the contract’s life.

In Cambridge, Marylebone and Purley, our flexible approach to property management and an efficient hand back process ensured that This Land, Dorrington and Peer Group were able to move forwards with their redevelopment plans on the timescale they wanted. 

Supporting our clients’ CSR objectives

This Land has an interest in building social value into their development plans, and we have worked closely with them to support their CSR objectives, including signposting our guardians to voluntary work with homeless people. All of our guardians commit to volunteering for good causes for 16 hours each month, 

Not only do we offer effective security for empty buildings, but we deliver social value in the communities that surround them in line with our clients’ values, and support them in spreading the word to their stakeholders.

Whatever the project – whether large or small, residential or commercial, CSR strategy or not – our extensive experience of working within the public sector bodies bears fruit when working with private developers, because we are so attuned to the positive impact our guardians have on the communities in which they live.

 

If you would like to find out more about how we can support our clients, you can get in touch with the team at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

Spotlight on: Aoise and Zoe, International Women’s Day

March 19, 2021

For International Women’s Day, we highlighted two of our guardians who are supporting women through their work and volunteering, helping to build a more equal future for all. Read more from our former guardian Aoise who’s paving the way for women leaders in social enterprise through her work with Supply Change. And our east London guardian, Zoe, who has been supporting vulnerable women and children in temporary housing through her volunteering with the Magpie Project.

 

Aoise, Supply Change

From our former guardian, Aoise

I was trying to find a place to live in London, and to do that in an affordable way was really difficult because London is so expensive…My weekend jobs were mainly waitressing which wasn’t that well paid, so I really wanted to be able to find a place that would allow me to continue with Year Here (a programme for entrepreneurs driven to create meaningful social change). That’s where Dot Dot Dot came in.

Living with Dot Dot Dot and not having to pay huge amounts of money for housing was a huge aspect of being able to carry on with Year Here. It gave me that breathing space to explore options with Supply Change, the social enterprise I set up with two of my fellow alumni, and really build on the learning I had gained from Year Here. It gave me a great launching pad and foundation.

The whole ethos and mission of Supply Change is to help social enterprises win and deliver more contracts. Our supplier base is over 50% women-led, which I think is quite common across the sector, and from the outset we try to support them to get them in front of buyers. We believe that redirecting some of that buyer spend to social businesses and social entrepreneurs can be really meaningful, especially when they’ve got past the stage of relying on grant funding. Directing revenue and regular contracts to these businesses is a really really great way of supporting social enterprises and the women who lead them.

Another way I support women entrepreneurs is through Supply Change itself. We are completely women-founded and we are a 75% women team. There are a lot of amazing women leaders in the social enterprise sector. Three female leaders in procurement is definitely a change in the way things have been done previously. We are paving the way for a lot more women to be leaders within the social enterprise sector and social procurement.

Zoe, The Magpie Project

From our east London guardian, Zoe

For a long time I had been looking to be involved with an organisation focused on supporting women, but hadn’t found myself with enough time to do so. Then after becoming a guardian with Dot Dot Dot, I found myself with more time to dedicate to issues I cared about. After learning about the incredible work that the Magpie Project does to support women and their children, I knew their cause was the one I wanted to be involved with.

The Magpie Project is an amazing charity that supports vulnerable women and their small children that are living in temporary accommodation. They work incredibly hard to get these families on their feet, and they stand up for them in ways that others haven’t. Since I started volunteering for them my role as a volunteer has involved a bit of everything. On a regular shift my role involves helping during a day session at their centre in various ways, as well as creating illustrations that they could use.

Since the pandemic started the Magpie Project has been working very hard to find ways to continue supporting its families in a safe and socially distanced way, and they’ve been very successful in finding ways to deliver help such as food and essentials to their homes. Even when the Magpie Project centre had to close its doors because of the pandemic, it found ways to continue delivering help to families that would otherwise be destitute

I volunteered for them remotely by creating some videos for the children and families to do illustration and creative activities at home. Volunteering for the Magpie Project allowed me to support women not only by helping with the work that they do every week at their centre, but also using my own skills, such as creating illustrations they could use to raise awareness about their cause, or to sell and to raise funds for the women and their families.

Becoming a Dot Dot Dot guardian enabled me to dedicate more of my time to causes I care about, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible given the high cost of living and rent in London.

Dot Dot Dot not only gave me the opportunity to pursue my own path, as I was then able to afford enough space to have my own studio at home to develop my work, but also gave me the opportunity to give some of my time to others and help causes I feel are meaningful and worth supporting.

Read more stories from our guardians on how living with Dot Dot Dot has given them the freedom and flexibility to pursue their goals.

Pricing people in, not out

February 17, 2021

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert 

For people who rent their homes, finding a nice place in a convenient location for a price you can afford has been a challenge in the UK for a long time.  This issue was a key reason why Dot Dot Dot was launched in 2011, and the situation has become worse over the past ten years.  This contributes to a wealth and an opportunity gap as well as making life more difficult on a day-to-day basis for those who struggle to house themselves.

The problem

Over the past decade, the price of a property in London has nearly doubled, while the proportion of younger adults renting or living with their parents rather than owning a home of their own has grown.  This has created a widening wealth gap as those priced out of home ownership have got poorer and those who already owned homes have got richer, recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown.  This gap broadly falls along generational lines – by and large, older people are homeowners, whereas millennials have been unable to buy.  

As rents have gone up, saving for a deposit or for any other reason has become harder – at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, one in five people who rent their homes had no savings at all.  Then, when the lockdowns came, renters saw the biggest hits to their incomes, according to the Resolution Foundation.  As a result, 6% of renters are now in arrears whereas only 2% of home owners are behind on mortgage payments.

Meanwhile, many homeowners have seen the value of their homes rise.  The low cost of borrowing for those with substantial deposits and the government’s decision to cut stamp duty has pushed house prices to an all-time high in December, up 6% from a year ago, according to mortgage lender Halifax.  

This has made those who already owned their homes wealthier, but has put home ownership even further out of reach for the young, especially as mortgage lenders pull back from lending to those without large deposits.

Buying is particularly difficult in London.  First-time buyers in the capital paid an average of £420,618 for a home at the end of 2020, the equivalent of more than nine times their earnings, according to Nationwide Building Society – a level which is almost impossible for those without very large savings or money from families. 

Long-term solutions

Just as we at Dot Dot Dot have seen the situation get worse for renters, we have also seen growing calls for solutions.  Suggested options for improvement abound – the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange last week launched a report recommending a form of blended mortgage product that would deliver 95% loan-to-value home loans.  The loans would be provided by three different financial institutions, with the riskiest bit – the part of the loan between 95% and 85% of the home’s value – would be provided by an investment bank.  Retail banks would provide a middle slice while the last part would be delivered by long-term investors such as pension funds.  The economists behind the paper argue that this – in combination with a land value tax and the abolition of stamp duty – would create a house-building boom.

Meanwhile, politicians on the left and in the centre argue for greater government intervention to stimulate house building.  Ahead of the 2019 election, Labour’s housing manifesto promised to build 150,000 new council and housing association homes a year.  At the same election, the Liberal Democrats promised “New direct spending on house building to help build 300,000 homes a year by 2024, including 100,000 social homes.”

How Dot Dot Dot’s work fits in

Any solution to the housing problems faced by those in the private rented sector will take time to agree and even longer to put into effect.  So until the political will is found to get on with building more houses at sensible prices in the right places, we at Dot Dot Dot are committed to creating as many inexpensive, well-managed homes as we can by using property that would otherwise be empty.  By working with property owners, we’re able to prevent the blight void buildings can cause, provide homes that otherwise wouldn’t exist and support volunteering.

In fact, even if the housing crisis was solved and everyone who wanted to own a home could afford to buy one, there would still be a need for inexpensive, flexible accommodation that property guardianship is perfectly set up to provide.  Home-ownership isn’t right for everyone – some will always want a place to live with less long-term commitment, and guardianship is a good chance to try new areas or live in quirky buildings.  And meanwhile property owners will always need buildings looked after on a temporary basis while they prepare for regeneration projects or to sell.  

So property guardianship is not only useful due to the housing crisis – but for as long as it lasts, we’re glad to be here providing options.

If you’d like to find out more about property guardianship and whether it’s the right option for you, you can read more by visiting our FAQs, or you can apply to become a property guardian with us.

How volunteering helps everyone – not just the beneficiaries

October 29, 2020

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert

Supporting volunteering has always been central to Dot Dot Dot’s work – and our focus on it is something we are never asked to justify.   No one needs an academic paper to tell them that it’s worthwhile to support people who’d like to do good for others. And it’s easy to see that volunteers keep a huge range of worthwhile organisations going, from household names like the Samaritans and the St John’s Ambulance through to small local food banks and sports clubs.

But the indirect benefits to society as a whole of volunteering, neighbourliness and civic engagement go way beyond the benefits to individuals in need who receive help from volunteers, or to the volunteers themselves who get satisfaction from doing it.  People living in societies with more volunteering, more social connections and higher trust tend to be happier and wealthier, so participation deserves to be measured, celebrated and promoted for these reasons too.

Most current discussion of the benefit of living in a community where people are engaged – either by volunteering formally, getting involved in neighbourhood groups or helping others informally – traces back to Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, published in 2000.  In it, he argued that social capital is essential to a well-functioning democracy, and defined it as “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them”. 

He also drew a clear link between the frequency with which people get involved in third-sector activities and organisations, and higher levels of trust and social capital.  As he put it, ‘‘civic engagement and trust are mutually reinforcing’’ and ‘‘the causal arrows among civic involvement…and social trust are as tangled as well-tossed spaghetti’’. 

While it usually takes a certain amount of trust and positivity to start volunteering or to get involved with a club or society in the first place, Putnam’s point is that doing so creates a virtuous spiral – the more you participate, the more positive you feel about others because you have more good experiences and you benefit from more reciprocity.  And this in turn makes you more likely to believe that most people are basically trustworthy, which encourages you to participate more.

This is good for individuals. Sociological research repeatedly shows that higher social trust is correlated with higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction and subjective wellbeing, and we frequently hear from our guardians that their volunteering is positive for them as well as helpful to the causes they give their time to.  

But it’s also good for society as a whole.  Work by Marta Portela and others in the journal, Social Indicators Research, shows that the higher the level of social capital a country has on average, the more likely individuals in that country are to be happy and satisfied with their lives.  And these benefits occur even for those who don’t participate regularly – if you live around others who get involved and have a good opinion of their fellow citizens, your life is probably better too. 

It also makes us all richer.  A country’s average levels of social trust predicts its economic growth more accurately than its average skill levels, according to Dr David Halpern, the Chief Executive of the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team.  As he puts it, “Low trust implies a society where you have to keep an eye over your shoulder; where deals need lawyers instead of hand-shakes; where you don’t see the point of paying your tax or recycling your rubbish (since you doubt your neighbour will do so); and where you employ your cousin or your brother-in-law to work for you rather than a stranger who would probably be much better at the job.”  All of that makes life less enjoyable – but it also makes it more expensive and holds back innovation and entrepreneurship, making countries who lack social trust poorer too.

So even though most people who get involved in formal or informal volunteering do it because they want to help a specific cause and because they enjoy it, by doing so they are also making everyone a bit more likely to be happy and wealthy.  We support volunteering because of its positive impacts on good causes and on the volunteers themselves, but by doing so we hope we are also making a small contribution to building a more positive, happier and richer society as a whole.

You can find out more about our commitment to supporting the volunteering efforts of our guardians here, and read more of our guardian stories here.

Life as a Dot Dot Dot property guardian: Kechinaeke from High Wycombe

July 10, 2020

We touched base with Dot Dot Dot guardian Kechinaeke, who is currently enjoying her 1-bed flat in High Wycombe. Kechinaeke talks decorating on a budget, how she began the search for a volunteering opportunity she loves, and why being a Dot Dot Dot guardian has positively changed her life.

What made you look into property guardianship?

So I heard about Dot Dot Dot through my friend. He’s a property guardian already somewhere else. After he’d told me about what it entails I thought that this could be great for me. I started to think maybe I don’t need to rent privately and I thought I’d take his advice and see if I can get a guardian property of my own. I began looking into it and found that Dot Dot Dot had properties in High Wycombe. 

What drew you to Dot Dot Dot?

I thought it was quite nice that Dot Dot Dot has the volunteering aspect and that property guardians can get involved in charity work – especially as other guardianship companies don’t have this side to them. This made me way more interested. 

What was your experience of viewing your flat?

The whole process was pretty simple and straightforward from start to finish. After I applied I had someone get back to me the following day to let me know it had been approved. The viewing for the property where I now live was actually the same week my application went through so it went really smoothly. I had my matching call and then got invited to sign up really soon and got my key to move in. It just wasn’t complicated at all. 

What were your thoughts when you moved in?

When I moved in there was no proper flooring – there were very old wooden floorboards but they had paint splashed all over them. This was the main aspect that I felt needed to be done. Everything else was great actually. The walls were in really good condition but I think the previous person got it painted really nicely and so I didn’t really need to do this part in the end. I also didn’t have to do anything to the kitchen! Just get a cooker and I was sorted.

How did the decorating go?

In terms of furnishing the place, this turned out to be really affordable. The only thing I didn’t end up getting was my bed as I had this already from living with my Mum. I got some cheapish cupboards from Ikea and got a sofa from Argos along with a cute rug. For the floor, I got ‘vinix’ sheets which are really easy to put down and they look really professional. The best part was that it wasn’t even that expensive. It was £20 for a sheet and I only needed two per room. In the end, I spent about £100. Wasn’t really that expensive to do. 

Where did you live before becoming a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian?

Before I became a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian I was living at home with my Mum and younger brother. My mum decided to go and be with my dad in Nigeria so I had to find somewhere to live on my own. My sister said I could stay with her so I did have a backup option but I wanted to get my own space and take my time to move in and settle down in a place I’d love to call my own. 

What do you like about where you currently live?

It’s nice and quiet, very residential. I like the area, and that there are no disturbances. I’ve not been living here for too long but my neighbours are great. Everyone is really welcoming and I really like them. I’ve spoken to my next-door neighbour as well and had a good chat. I’ve lived there for two weeks. 

What volunteering do you do?

I’ve found a few places where I’d like to volunteer and I know you’re allowed to choose multiple places to do this. I’m particularly interested in doing litter picking in the area – I’m a clean freak and so I like things to be nice and neat. My contribution would make me feel better if my surroundings are clean. 

I’m also going to do some church work and some gardening. I work in an office 9-5 every week so I’d like to do something more interactive outdoors so I can talk to people in a different environment. There’s nothing daunting about volunteering in any way and you get to choose what you want to do which means you can ensure you’ll be doing something you enjoy and that you can get things out of. 

Has property guardianship positively impacted your life?

Definitely! I’ve been wanting to save to buy my own property for a long time so this is a great way to help me do this – it’s the best opportunity. In fact, even when I was at home I was paying £500 each month and now I’m only paying £300 which is a huge saving. To think that I’ve got my own flat to myself and the space is mine. I love it. Getting to live on my own and affording a flat isn’t something I expected I’d be able to do and It’s only because of Dot Dot Dot that I can do this. 

4 ways to make your space a home for under £100

March 6, 2020

One of the perks of being a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian is that in a lot of our properties you have the creative freedom to paint and renovate your space as you see fit (as long as it doesn’t affect structural integrity). You wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to live in your own, fresh space for what could be years (yes some of our guardians have been with us for years!). The question is; what are the quickest and most cost-effective things you can do to renovate a room? Well, below you’ll find 4 fun things you can do quickly and easily to make your space a home for under £100.

1. Fresh Paint

Painting your property is a great starting point to spruce up things in a quick and cost-effective way. A good paint job is a great way to add character and personality to your home, but will also help defend against weather, insects and other damage, so it’s the perfect place to start!

First pain(t) point is cost. Painting a room or entire flat can be expensive, but in the UK Dulux has created the Community RePaint scheme. There are plenty of locations around London and the UK, with many of them offering free paint, or paint for just £1 – £2 per litre. Each of the schemes is run independently and they’re all not-for-profit so any money raised goes back to the local community!

The second pain(t) point is the time and effort it takes to paint a room. If you’re someone who loves the smell of mineral turpentine and gets genuinely excited about masking tape then skip this part. However, if you’re like me and think house painting is like looking at a wall for hours on end, because well, that’s what it is – fear not, we have found the quickest and most pain-free way to paint your place in a day here!

 2. Picture Frames & Unsplash Prints

So you’ve added a fresh coat of paint to the walls, and now you’re thinking “how do I cover up this beautiful paint job with someone else’s artwork in the cheapest way possible”? Well, once again you’ve come to the right place, and sure you might see the above image and think you can create that look on a budget. Well, you’d be wrong, keep reading.

First things first, the frames. If you have a bit of extra budget, you can head over to Ikea or Wilko and pick up frames relatively cheaply. However, if you’re thrifty and resourceful, a quick peruse of Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree using the search terms “Ikea Picture Frames” (Or something similar) you’ll actually find the exact frames, usually unused for at least half the price.

Now you’ve picked up some cheap frames, that’s the easy part sorted. Next, you need to work out what you want to stare at, and more importantly what images are going to make you seem tasteful and distinguished to your hipster friends from the East-End. Don’t worry once again we are here to help. Firstly, I’d like to introduce you to our good friend Unsplash.com. Put simply, Unsplash is a site for high quality “stock photography” that doesn’t look like “stock photography” that you can use for FREE, you don’t even need to sign up. If it sounds too good to be true it isn’t, all you need to do is search whatever you are looking for in the search terms and you’ll be presented with a myriad of amazing images from artists around the world.

Next, you’ve measured up your frames and decided what photos you’d like to impress those “artsy” friends with, now you need to get them printed. Our pick here is Snappy Snaps, for high quality and affordable photo printing services. Finally, lay the frames out on the ground to get the layout right, and then put them on the wall – done!

3. Indoor Plants

Other than looking great, house plants are good for your health. How? Simple, they oxygenate the air, and remove harmful toxins by up to 87 per cent as shown in extensive research carried out by NASA! Plants, however, can be expensive if you don’t know where to look. The first place to start would be to jump onto Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree and search “indoor plants” where you’ll find plenty of people attempting to offload plants at ludicrously cheap prices. If you live in London, you could also like the @PlantsforallUK Facebook page. Here you’ll find a monthly event held in Central London for plants at crazy low prices.

4. “Upcycling” Second Hand Furniture

Now to fill your space with furnishings that an Ikea catalogue would be envious of. The best part is these pieces will have something new furniture will never have – character! We love the Freecycle website, but you can find affordable second-hand furniture on Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. Our tip would be to focus on key pieces that you base your other smaller pieces, like plants, around.

These are just a few helpful tips to kick start your life as a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian. Remember before you buy new, check Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace because chances are the same item will be a fraction of the price! If you’re struggling to work out how to fit all of these pieces together, stay tuned for our blog on how to style a room with mismatched and eclectic furniture coming next month. In the meantime check out our other blogs on making your space a home here.

 

Under the hood: who can be a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot?

March 9, 2017

Dot Dot Dot exists to secure empty property and to create housing for people who volunteer for good causes. Since we launched in 2011, we have brought hundreds of empty buildings into use – mitigating risks and reducing costs for owners, providing homes to guardians, and making a difference to communities.

We work with a wide range of residents, property owners and buildings, but we are always clear about our role in the sector – we are here to manage buildings on a temporary basis on behalf of their owners while they are awaiting refurbishment, demolition or sale. This shapes who we can house.

Who can be a property guardian?

All sorts of people become property guardians with us – we currently house designers, students, teachers, cleaners, magazine editors, librarians, support workers, engineers, zookeepers, midwives, DJ’s and dancers. People enjoy the experience for different reasons too, whether that’s because it opens up a new way of living for them, or it makes their existing lifestyle easier and more affordable. However, all our property guardians share some characteristics: they are resilient, financially stable, conscientious and committed to volunteering for at least 16 hours per month.

As we are taking care of buildings on behalf of their owners, we need to be able to rely on our guardians to live in them quietly and conscientiously and be great neighbours and housemates. Our guardians report any repairs or untoward activity in the neighbourhood promptly, and avoid creating any disturbance for neighbours or fellow guardians.

Because we are looking after the buildings on a temporary basis, guardians are placed as licensees not tenants. This means that they have to be ready to move out with four weeks’ notice, which is half what they would receive if they were tenants. Our guardians need to be flexible and mobile – we cannot house people who are heavily dependent on local services, or who would struggle to find alternative housing.

We are committed to acting fairly, so we want to make sure that a wide range of people know about property guardianship with Dot Dot Dot. So we market our properties on conventional platforms such as SpareRoom, Gumtree, local noticeboards and social media. Once people express interest in living with Dot Dot Dot, our application and vetting process establishes whether they are suitable.

Who we do not house and why

Guardians cannot be:

  • Under 18 or looking to live with any children under 18
  • Looking to live with any pets.
  • Looking to use the property for business or public events.

We do not house minors or people with children living with them. The core role of a property guardian is to secure the building they live in, and guardians have to be ready to move out at four weeks’ notice. This function as building security and a lack of long-term stability is not suitable for children or families. Families have a clear need to be close to the schools, GPs and other services they rely on and they cannot be expected to prioritise the condition of the building in which they live.

Similarly, vulnerable people without children would not pass our application and vetting processes. People with support needs or serious health problems need a stable home where they can access services and receive help and care, and guardianship does not provide that.

Dot Dot Dot is an organisation committed to providing an equally high quality service to property owners, property guardians and the communities in which we work. We are transparent about our standards and we always work to them. We house people who can commit at least 16 hours of their time per month to support good causes. Our guardians are not the most vulnerable people in society, but through our housing, they make good use of buildings that would otherwise stand empty and their skills and energy are used to help organisations which make a difference for the local community.

Would you like to explore further?

If you are interested in being a property guardian with us, then start your journey now.

Next Page »

What are you looking for today?

Marketing Permissions

Dot Dot Dot Property Ltd will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing by email. Please confirm you are happy to hear from us by:

Email
You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at hello@dotdotdotproperty.com. We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By checking the box, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

GDPR
We use MailChimp as our marketing automation platform. By clicking below to submit this form, you acknowledge that the information you provide will be transferred to MailChimp for processing in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms.