A guide to Kent’s county town, Maidstone

April 8, 2022

As one of Kent’s most enduring and historically significant towns, Maidstone is ever-evolving to balance new and diverse industries with its historic charm and characterful corners. Peacefully located on the banks of the river Medway, this county town is well worth exploring for its hubs of entertainment, long list of much loved bars and restaurants and leafy aesthetic. We recently visited the area for ourselves – and here are our best bits.

Activities and attractions

The river Medway runs through the heart of Maidstone, and so the town offers a surprising amount of water sports during the warmer months. You can hire out canoes and kayaks to explore the river and even travel out into the pastoral Kent countryside on a day trip.

Cycling is also a popular pastime, and there are plenty of quiet and traffic-free routes to take to discover the county town. You could also head to Go Ape to explore the forest canopies in the surrounding rural beauty spots via zip lines and high ropes.

The Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, residing within an Elizabethan manor house, hosts the most diverse mix of collections in Kent, and has won acclaim for its ethnographic and ancient artefacts. You’ll find  Anglo-saxon treasures, a chair that once belonged to Napoleon and even a 2,700 year old Egyptian Mummy.

The fossilised bones of ‘Iggy’ the Iguanadon (which can be found on the town’s coat of arms!) were discovered in 1834 during an excavation on Queen’s Road. As a historical find of international significance, they are now housed in the Natural History Museum in London, but a visit to Maidstone Museum will allow you to see a full cast of the bones.

Offering one of the most energetic and varied programmes of art performances in the south east, The Hazlitt Theatre offers drama, comedy and musical entertainment and local community theatre groups.

Where to shop and dine out 

Maidstone offers an eclectic mix of shopping and dining experiences. Amongst the recently refurbished Fremlin Walk, you can find a flagship House of Fraser, H&M, Flying Tiger and Waterstones, to name a few. On the other side of town you’ll find independent shopping experiences in and around the streets of The Royal Star Arcade and Market Buildings, with clothing and homeware boutique, Lottie’s Loft, being a particular highlight.

Restaurants and cafes are in abundance, with the highest concentration of eateries located around Earl Street. Check out the highly recommended Frederik Cafe Bistro, La Villetta, Mu Mu’s and Embankment Floating Restaurant on the River Medway.

In the historic villages in and around Maidstone, top pubs include The Fish on the Green in Bearsted, The Potting Shed in Langley and the Curious Eatery in Boughton Monchelsea.

Mote Park

Mote Park boasts an impressive 30 acre lake offering water sports, a pitch and putt course and a cafe hub. It’s also host to a variety of festivals and events throughout the summer and autumn.

Highlights include Ramblin Man Fair in July, one of the country’s biggest rock music festivals. For three years on the go, Ramblin Man Fair encompasses rock, blues and country, has its own beer festival, and there are options for glamping and camping nearby!

October welcomes the beer and folk music festival, Oktoberfest. Expect Europe’s biggest beer tent with 30,000 litres of Bavarian beer, traditional folk music and a German food market.

How we work with LB Brent to turn empty flats into inexpensive homes in Queen’s Park

March 22, 2022

The regeneration of South Kilburn in Queen’s Park is a 15-year project aiming to deliver over 2,400 new homes as part of a sustainable and mixed neighbourhood. Flats are vacated in phases to prepare blocks for demolition. However, leaving them empty can risk them becoming the target of anti-social behaviour or can mean maintenance issues that could affect existing residents aren’t spotted.

Life for local residents can become worse just when timelines are most critical and when housing teams are most stretched. For Dot Dot Dot, this can be an opportunity to add most value. With a depth of experience in regeneration projects, and a commitment to delivering positive social impact, we work with housing teams to manage voids in a way that maintains flexibility and positivity in the decant process.

Assessing if a property can be used for guardianship

Dot Dot Dot and LB Brent worked together to establish a process whereby properties could be identified as potentially suitable for guardianship and handed over – or returned if unsuitable – in an efficient, transparent manner:

  1. Property in pipeline: LB Brent allocates a property as available for potential guardian use, and invites Dot Dot Dot for a pre-assessment site visit. LB Brent and Dot Dot Dot agree properties which appear suitable for guardian occupation, and LB Brent undertakes any necessary work to ensure that the units pass their EICR and gas safety inspections, are weathertight and have secure windows and doors.
  2. Property ready for triage: LB Brent notifies Dot Dot Dot when they’re satisfied the property is at the handover standard, and sends over gas and electricity safety certs and asbestos documentation.
  3. Key collection and triage authorisation: Both parties agree a timeline for Dot Dot Dot to put the property through triage i.e. assess its suitability for guardianship. LB Brent signs a Triage Authorisation Form and hands over keys. Dot Dot Dot inputs the property and its accompanying authorisation is into a property tracker visible to both parties.
  4. Triage: Over a maximum two-week period, Dot Dot Dot will assess the suitability of the property for guardianship e.g. the amount / cost of work needed to make it viable for occupation in line with our minimum property standards.

Either the property will be accepted by Dot Dot Dot, in which case LB Brent will give authorisation for set up to be finalised and guardians to be housed. Or, Dot Dot Dot will determine that the property can’t be used for guardian occupation, provide the reason for rejection, return the keys and a Property Handback Form to LB Brent, and designate the property on the tracker as being handed back.

Housing guardians to keep properties safe

Once authorised to house guardians, Dot Dot Dot will take on the Council Tax and utilities accounts, add safety certs to our online folder that’s shared with LB Brent, and obtain a selective licence for each property.

Prospective guardians will be vetted, with key considerations being their financial security, ability to move out if given 28 days’ notice, and their desire to volunteer.

Councillor Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet member for housing and welfare reform at LB Brent, explains: “The first temporary guardian was housed in South Kilburn in April 2021, and there are now 19 guardians across four different blocks. They will be joined by dozens more over this year as the regeneration progresses. They have already volunteered over 1,500 hours to good causes, including at local community kitchens, Covid-19 vaccination centres and the Compass network which represents the LGBT+ community within the armed forces.”

The final stage – vacant possession and handback

Using guardians means property owners are able to ask for their buildings back at any time and for any reason – all they need to do is give 32 days’ notice. In turn, Dot Dot Dot will give its guardians the 28 days’ notice required by law.

Once notice has been served, guardians will begin to activate their move on plans, and Dot Dot Dot will offer rehousing options when available and appropriate. The properties are returned to LB Brent in a clean and clear condition, and after inspecting the property, LB Brent will sign a Property Handback Schedule to confirm its return. Dot Dot Dot will close the Council Tax and utilities accounts and transfer them back to LB Brent.

This entire process can occur over a period of a few months to several years, and can flex with the timelines of the council’s regeneration plans. In choosing to work in partnership, Dot Dot Dot is able to provide its guardians with inexpensive homes in a desirable, diverse and dynamic part of the capital, and LB Brent can keep its buildings safe, support its communities and generate positive social impact through volunteering.

Spotlight on: Cate and Charlotte, International Women’s Day

March 11, 2022

This International Women’s Day, we’re throwing the spotlight on two Dot Dot Dot guardians who are doing fantastic work to both support and lead the way for women in their careers and voluntary work.

Discover how our Manchester guardian, Cate, has powerfully forged her own artistic career path in light of an autism diagnosis. And how our west London guardian, Charlotte, who is volunteering with XLP – a charity focused on supporting young people to recognise their full potential – is helping to  create positive futures for women growing up in inner-city estates.

Cate, forging her artistic career path

From our Manchester guardian, Cate 

During the pandemic I was diagnosed with autism and began to find the work I was doing problematic, especially when I had to take on new responsibilities due to Covid. I started to feel that I needed to fundamentally change what I was doing and work on something new, with an emphasis on supporting others.

Equipped with my experience of being diagnosed with autism and the challenges I’d faced in light of this, I left my job to begin focusing on initiating an art agency. My goal was to create a platform for fellow creatives who struggled to gain normal agency representation due to having specific working needs like myself. Through this support, many artists have been able to go on to set up their own websites and control their own publicity.

Knowing Manchester to be a real hub of creativity and so a place where my arts agency could thrive, I left London behind to embark on a new stage of my life in West Didsbury as a Dot Dot Dot guardian. Soon after, I got a bar job in a pub in nearby Burton Road where there is a hive of artisan shops and businesses with whom I could connect and engage with.

This opened up another new avenue for me. The owner of the pub I was working in decided to utilise an empty unit space next door, and so myself and a female friend worked together to bring the space back into use as a gallery. The aim was to showcase art from local talent, many of whom are women, in rotating exhibitions to help them to publicise their work. Since then, we’ve had three exhibitions and have helped to raise the profile of 24 different artists in Manchester to a global audience through social media.

It’s been a huge learning curve for me as I’ve always wanted to do an MA in art curation but was held back by the cost. However, being so heavily involved in the running of the Next Door Gallery means that I’ve been able to gain first-hand experience in curation, practically executing my own MA. I’ve liaised directly with buyers across the globe as well as learned how to properly store and ship artwork internationally – something I never would have had the chance to do in my old life in London where my energy was zapped by other commitments.

Following the success of the gallery, I’ve been able to scale back on the amount of time I spend working to allow myself more space to focus on my own freelance artwork. Transforming part of my Dot Dot Dot flat into my art studio has been a lifeline for me to be able to develop and produce my work. I’ve recently been part of an art show at the Antwerp Mansions in Manchester and am currently in talks to hold my first solo exhibition on the subject of autism and what that means on a personal level.

Charlotte, XLP

From our west London guardian, Charlotte

For six months now, I’ve been volunteering as a mentor to a 14 year old girl with a charity called XLP. They’re focused on creating positive futures for young people who are growing up in inner-city estates in London and facing challenges in their home lives, at school and in employment. I work with young people in my own career as chair of the Women Employability Resource Group with YMCA, and it’s something that I love doing – but I wanted to work with women in a different capacity when volunteering. XLP was a perfect way for me to draw upon my existing skill set in order to support and provide mentorship to young women.

My role is to empower and support the young woman I work with to begin to lead and shape her own future. We do many things together such as grabbing a coffee or going for a walk – anything that facilitates a conversation with her in order for me to provide guidance. XLP are even organising a weekend away with fellow mentors and mentees, and so I’ll be helping to push her out of her comfort zone, giving her opportunities to experience things she wouldn’t have in her everyday life otherwise.

There are challenges involved that relate to mentees socio-economic backgrounds and a lack of positive female role models in their lives, and so my role as a mentee really hinges on building trust and providing a listening ear for her. Specifically as a woman, I hope to have a positive impact in broadening her worldview and demonstrating to her that she is allowed to make space for herself. I am there to help her break a pre-existing bias, encouraging her to realise that she belongs in this society just as much as men and boys, and to empower her to take up space in her community.

For myself, I’ve learnt so much from this young woman – you couldn’t do this role without really seeing and feeling the impact it has for her. It’s a privilege and an honor to have a space in her life and share her challenges and sit with them in those times. I feel incredibly grateful that I am a trusted person in her life, and I hope I can continue to enable her to create positive goals and put her mind to achieving them.

In conversation with Mark Ackroyd, our new CEO

January 25, 2022

As we get into the swing of a new year, we catch up with Mark Ackroyd, new Chief Executive at Dot Dot Dot, about his love of the nitty gritty, how the landscape has shifted in the past five years and his aims for 2022.

Tell me a bit about how we got here – what’s your background? What brought you to Dot Dot Dot?

“I have always been interested in working with organisations that have a social element to what they do. I originally qualified as a social worker and quite quickly found out that I enjoy both the social element but also grappling with complex operational problems.

“I worked for the National Governing Body of Tennis on child safeguarding, and, since then, I’ve worked in schools and in managing creative shared office spaces. I’ve gradually deepened my understanding of property management but more generally of managing complex operational businesses. 

“Dot Dot Dot feels like a business that is addressing a very urgent challenge, but which, when I joined as Director of Services, was also a good overlap with the type of professional background that I had of balancing both social and operational business needs.

“I’m passionate about being values-driven. I like helping people to translate their values into what they do every day with their customers or with their job. Dot Dot Dot is a great fit for the things that I like to do and that I have built a skill set for over the years – nitty gritty operational detail that enables social purpose.”

 

What are the best bits about working at Dot Dot Dot?

“I really enjoy hearing about how our guardians have been making the most of their time. That is as much to do with their motivation and their drive as it is about the work that we do. It’s nice to have contact with a very cool, very motivated group of customers – that’s really exciting. 

“Another part is that I love being part of and leading a team. I think we’ve got a great team of employees that live our values, but they’re also just a really interesting group of people who are not just there for the 9-5. That, for me, is a real passion – trying to give people a work environment that is a pleasure for them. 

“The final thing is that running a business like Dot Dot Dot is quite complicated, so there’s an intellectual challenge to leading a business that has that mixed bottom line. Dot Dot Dot is a small business and a social enterprise, but when you get beneath the skin it’s a real Swiss watch – there are lots of high consequence processes, because they involve real human beings living in real homes. I really enjoy that complex machine element of what we do; trying to balance all those different factors is engaging and fascinating.”

 

How has the landscape changed since you started at Dot Dot Dot?

“During my time at Dot Dot Dot, the housing situation and the long-term financial prospects for most people have become worse, and it stopped becoming feasible for many to get onto the housing ladder. By now, you increasingly have people who feel a long way from that prospect.

“Our guardians face a more generally challenging financial environment, which is partly to do with Covid but is also a long-term trend as well. The move towards a gig economy, the gradual erasure of stable, long-term jobs is a real challenge. Many people who have a lot to bring to our cities are in precarious situations, and that’s definitely changed the landscape we work in as well. The need for us to get inexpensive housing out there has grown. 

“The debate around the social impact and responsibility of businesses has evolved significantly and has dramatically accelerated over the last five years. Dot Dot Dot have continued to deliver on our core social mission and we’ve got a very clear idea about unlocking the potential of the people we house, but we need to make sure that the way we communicate is in keeping with a much more sophisticated landscape.”

 

What are your aims for 2022?

“Our strength has always been working closely with local authorities and housing associations, and particularly in regeneration programmes, and one of my goals for 2022 is to make sure that we maintain strong, productive relationships with those clients. They have housed a lot of people with Dot Dot Dot through the pandemic, and they are now figuring out how to manage their own temporary housing needs and their own residents’ needs. One of our main focuses is to ensure we continue to foster those relationships and use our expertise to help our clients manage some of the strategic challenges that many in the housing sector are facing at the moment. 

“Another focus over the next year is to continue to understand, articulate and develop our social impact, and to ensure that the impact our guardians have is targeted as effectively as possible moving forwards.

“I also hope that we’ll be returning to the Dot Dot Dot office, to re-establish a culture of spending time together with colleagues in a more regular way. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to put our newly spring-cleaned office to proper use!”

 

Then and now: 10 years of property guardianship

November 19, 2021

Dot Dot Dot founder Katharine Hibbert looks back at the industry she walked into in 2011 and how it’s developed over a decade.

When I had the idea for Dot Dot Dot back in 2010, property guardianship was almost unheard of in the UK.  I spent my first years in business explaining to property owners why placing people to live in empty buildings on a temporary basis was a better security solution than traditional approaches like guards or metal hoardings.  And in those early years several guardians told me that, when they saw our adverts, at first they assumed it was a scam because the value of the homes we offered seemed too good to be true. 

Fast forward to today, and the concept is much more familiar.   Many experienced property managers automatically consider guardianship in the menu of options for buildings that are due for regeneration or sale.  And most of those who come to us for housing know about guardianship from media coverage or have friends who are already guardians.   This means that our focus at Dot Dot Dot can move from explaining the basic business model to talking about what makes our approach, as one of Britain’s leading property guardian companies and the only social enterprise in the sector, different and special.  

As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of looking after our first property, here are my reflections on a decade in the industry.

2011 was the perfect moment to launch a property guardianship social enterprise…

As Dot Dot Dot’s founder, I was fortunate to be in the right place with the right idea at the right time.  My work as a journalist had allowed me to specialise in empty homes and the housing crisis, a topic I had been drawn to because – like many millennials – I found myself locked out of home ownership and stuck in expensive, poor-quality rented homes.  I had written a book and worked on a Channel Four programme on the topic, but I had reached the point where I wanted to do something practical to fix the issue, rather than just talk about how bad the problem was.

At the same time, I saw that the property guardian concept was arriving in the UK from the Netherlands.  There were two Dutch companies operating here, each managing a small number of properties, mostly in Central London.  I could see that the idea was bound to catch on – it was (and still is) the only way to achieve all three priorities of flexible, reliable, cost-effective security, where other options can only manage two of the three at best.  And because it allowed property guardian companies to offer homes in prime locations at a fraction of the market rent, it couldn’t fail to be a hit with people looking for a place to live. 

But what I also saw was that the property guardian companies in the market were looking at it only through the lens of security.  The people placed to live in buildings were there as warm bodies to achieve the goal of keeping the building safe, and not as stakeholders to be considered beyond that.  What struck me was that, even if you only cared about property security, who you house in the buildings you are looking after matters.  If you can identify considerate, responsible people who want to be good neighbours, they will naturally take better care of their homes.  And if you add in positive, thoughtful management, the outcomes will be better all round. 

This created the chance to build Dot Dot Dot.  By focusing on housing people who want to volunteer, we are able to support good causes. And we are also able to offer a better security service by attracting and recruiting lovely people who want to take good care of their homes and to be a positive presence in their local communities.  This insight was what allowed us to get started, and continues to be what creates our success today.

…But the lack of government action to ameliorate the housing crisis means that the need for our business model is even greater in 2021.

All the issues which motivated me to launch Dot Dot Dot at the beginning have only become more acute today.  House prices and rental costs have continued to spiral, meaning that it is even more difficult for people to cover their living costs, especially if they want to use some of their time for causes that matter for their own sake, rather than purely to earn money.  This is bad for individuals, but it’s also terrible for society as a whole as it limits the skills, talent and energy available to communities.  While we’re very proud to house hundreds of people across the country, supporting thousands of hours of volunteering a month, property guardianship can never be a complete solution to the housing crisis – the lack of government action over the past decade to improve the situation for people living in privately rented homes is deeply disappointing.

Safety and compliance standards needed to rise in 2011…

Back in 2011, property guardianship was the wild west.  Property owners and would-be property guardians had a very limited understanding of their rights and property guardian companies’ obligations, creating a risk of exploitation by unscrupulous providers. 

Since the beginning, Dot Dot Dot’s strategy has been to communicate a clear understanding of the legal situation to all our stakeholders, and to comply with or exceed those legal standards at all times.  This has enabled us to develop our reputation for quality, reliability and straightforwardness, and we have also used this approach to force others to raise their standards. 

In 2017 we commissioned a leading solicitor and an expert QC to produce a white paper setting out the legal context for our work, together with six other property guardian companies.  We contributed to a 2018 London Assembly report on the sector, welcoming the politicians’ calls to ensure that rules are obeyed consistently to ensure a “level playing-field” among property guardian companies.  And we have consistently tried to keep our stakeholders informed about legal standards and best practice through all possible channels – including this blog.

…But they still have a way to go today.

Whilst guardians today are rarely given notice periods shorter than their legal entitlement or subjected to illegal evictions, it is still not unheard of for people to be placed to live in buildings which are not safe to inhabit.  Property guardians are entitled to the same health and safety standards as tenants in the private rented sector – for example, buildings must be equally fire safe and must meet the same standards for gas and electrical safety testing.  However, some operators still cut corners.  This is bad because of the risk to guardians and because it’s against the law, but also because it harms the reputation of our industry.  This may deter property owners and would-be guardians from considering reputable operators, which cuts them off from the benefits the model can provide.

Our hopes for the next decade: property guardianship becoming boring

It was exciting to be involved in a new industry at the beginning, and we are proud to have done our bit to shape the sector by pushing up standards and emphasising the importance of recruiting great guardians and managing them well.  Over the past ten years, property guardianship has become a much more familiar part of the landscape, but it is still not as common as it should be – far too many properties still sit empty, representing a cost to property owners, a blight on neighbourhoods and a missed opportunity to create housing. 

In the years to come, we hope that we will see the market becoming even more mature, so that stakeholders aren’t choosing between using property guardians and leaving buildings empty, but are instead able to choose between a range of property guardian providers who all meet basic quality standards but offer different approaches to the model.  Some will be drawn to our purposeful, community-focused approach, whilst other customers will no doubt prefer a more basic version, just as some people choose fair trade coffee and others don’t.  

There is potential for our sector to provide good homes to tens of thousands of people, not just the thousands currently living as guardians.  We look forward to contributing to that growth – and to providing our own purposeful spin on the model.

 If you’d like to find out more about how we do property guardianship, you can watch our animation. 

How guardianship can complement Temporary Accommodation

October 26, 2021

Housing homeless families is rightly a priority for local authorities. But Dot Dot Dot guardians can be a helpful addition to communities and councils’ regeneration plans explains CEO Peter Brown.

We get a lot of questions about how we interface with Temporary Accommodation (TA), and so I thought it would be helpful to set out how choosing to work with Dot Dot Dot can be a useful element of local authorities’ strategies for TA.

It’s worth being upfront that Dot Dot Dot’s view is that, if a home can be used for permanent, settled housing then it should be used as such. And, if a home is available for a long enough period to house a household that needs temporary accommodation, then it should be used for that. 

However, property guardianship as a meanwhile housing service can still be useful in these same homes. It fills in the gaps when an estate is being readied for development, and is an option if a property could not be brought up to the necessary standard for a family in a financially-viable way.

The increasing pressure to provide Temporary Accommodation

Often the households housed in TA are families including children, and for those who need to rely on it, “temporary” can be an inaccurate description since it can be far from temporary, and can sometimes last for years. This length of wait is due to the lack of supply of low cost rented homes in the social housing sector, and especially a shortage of family-sized homes. Unfortunately, too, the standard of accommodation can be far from desirable. It’s not uncommon to accommodate a family in a large room or bedsit, which is the much-criticised ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation. 

The bill to local authorities for TA gives one an insight to the scale of the problem caused by rising demand for social housing and not enough homes created to satisfy that demand. According to Inside Housing, in 2019/20 local authorities spent £1.2bn on TA, up 9% from the previous year and double what was spent in 2014/15. What’s more, 87% of these monies went to private landlords or private providers.

Helping create resilient communities

Some of our clients say that having a group of guardians living alongside temporary accommodation homes is helpful because it helps to create a mixed and resilient community, even on a temporary and meanwhile basis. Guardians can report on maintenance issues and anti-social behaviour, and all our guardians commit to volunteering for 16 hours a month, often on local projects which can benefit local residents.

In most regeneration schemes, a proportion of homes will necessarily become vacant too close to the target end date to be able to move in TA residents, for example within three to 12 months. While it wouldn’t always be appropriate or possible for local authorities to house the households who need TA in this time, Dot Dot Dot is able to make use of these short term properties. 

Guardianship can work where Temporary Accommodation can’t

Any property that requires too much investment to bring it to the necessary standard for TA could still be suitable for guardian occupation. Dot Dot Dot works to strict health and safety, and licensing standards, however this is different to the standard required to house families, which gives councils an option when they have assets of varied condition.

So, where estate regeneration timings and the finances allow properties to be used to prevent homelessness and are of the right standard, Dot Dot Dot supports that use. But we can be an excellent option to throw into the mix when money or time are tight, or when vulnerable existing residents need support.

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.

Finding a sense of community in north west London: Farah and The Granville

October 21, 2021

Queen’s Park guardian, Farah, found a renewed sense of community in her hometown of north west London when she started volunteering for The Granville last year. The centre delivers food parcels to the local community and provides a multi-purpose space for people to come together.

“I had gotten really into gardening during lockdown and was looking to continue when I came across The Granville in May 2021. I started with Granville Community Garden and found out they were also running a foodbank. It runs twice a week, and I thought it was great to be involved as the pandemic made me realise the level of food poverty in the area. It’s also an opportunity to get to know local people.

My main role is helping with food parcels. Lots of the food is donated from local companies that have surplus and they donate in huge quantities. The volunteers go through the donations and divide it up. We make 100-150 parcels per shift and they all go to the local community. I also deliver to those who can’t come to The Granville. It’s nice to walk around the area and get to know it (and it’s good exercise!)

The gardening is connected, it’s been quieter at the moment but I’ve been maintaining the space throughout the summer and we will get started again soon. It’s grown by the community, for the community, and anyone can access it. There’s also an allotment.

It’s been a good way to get to know local people in a way I would not have normally. There’s a real sense of community spirit – everyone helping each other out. It’s taught me a lot and it’s the highlight of my week! 

One of the challenges is seeing face to face the poverty in the area and how many people rely on the foodbank. It’s made me realise also about my own food waste and use.

My favourite moment has been engaging with people when I deliver the food parcels. Often it’s the kids who open the door and it’s a sweet encounter, and they’re really funny and honest.

It’s been lovely having access to inexpensive housing. It has taken a lot of pressure off me, and I can do things like invest in my local community and feel more part of it. I knew the area as I grew up in north west London but now I am really part of it.”

To discover how you can get involved with The Granville,  visit their website.

You can also keep up with our #10Years celebration where we’re highlighting guardians from the past ten years  and the voluntary organisations our guardians give their time to. 

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.

Spotlight on: Helen, our beekeeping guardian in Letchworth Garden City

July 30, 2021

From Helen, Dot Dot Dot guardian in Letchworth Garden City

Every Wednesday I volunteer in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with Buzzworks – a charity whose mission is to help people learn about the world of bees and train people in the art of beekeeping. I started off by helping to maintain the education centre gardens, before moving to assist the head beekeeper. We extract the honey from the hives which are then put into jars and sold at a market in Hitchin every month.

Before I became a Dot Dot Dot guardian, I was already volunteering with Friends of Norton Common. I used to go dog walking on the common and one day another dog walker told me about the group. It’s a lovely mix of people who are very knowledgeable, together we make sure that the green spaces are well maintained and safe for visitors to enjoy. We have such a laugh and come rain or shine we are there. Plus it keeps us fit and healthy and helps us feel connected to each other and nature. I’m learning many new skills and can do things now that I never thought I would.

I’m so grateful to Dot Dot Dot for providing me with a safe space in Letchworth so that I could continue living here after moving out of my previous flat. I work in social care and wouldn’t have been able to afford my own space. Now, I have the financial security to be able to enrol in courses and invest in my personal development. Plus, I’ve managed to pay off all my debts and become independent.

I cycle to both volunteer locations every week which makes me feel great and means that I’m not using my car which is good for the environment and my mental health. I’m passionate about normalising conversations around mental and emotional health, and whenever I volunteer I am able to discuss these topics with the other volunteers.

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

Six tips for sourcing furniture on a budget

July 28, 2021

You have just had a meeting with the Dot Dot Dot team to welcome you to property guardianship, and you’ve been given the keys to your new space! What next?

Alongside cheaper living costs, a welcoming guardian community and an opportunity to give back to causes you care about, living with Dot Dot Dot also enables you to get creative redecorating your home. The prospect of filling an empty space can often feel daunting, so just follow our guide to sourcing furniture on a budget based on our recent experience of  furnishing  a studio flat in Queen’s Park, north west London.

1. Connect with friends who are giving stuff away

If you’ve got a friend who’s decided to Marie Kondo their life, now is the time to get in touch with them. Start contacting friends and family early to ask if anyone is having a clear out. You’ll find that people are more than happy to donate their unloved items. We were kindly given some cushions, a print for the wall and a chair!

2. Keep an eye on Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree

There is a wealth of furniture being given away or sold cheaply online if you’re willing to look for it. We found a 2-seater sofa worth £500, a coffee table and a bedside table that were going for free, so it’s worth signing up for email notifications and keeping an eye out for gems. You could try:

Stephanie O’Callaghan – Dot Dot Dot

3. Get creative

Decorating on a budget sometimes requires creativity to get the ambience you’re looking for. For the creatively challenged, there’s some easy options out there for you. Try putting dried lavender in an old glass bottle, or installing a lantern-style light shade for softer lighting. We found three light shades for £6 on Argos. 

4. Look for cheap soft furnishing options in charity shops

Charity shops are not just for clothing – you can also find some great homeware if you know where to look. We found a fluffy grey rug which is great for sectioning off the living space in a studio flat. There are also plenty of online guides to the best areas for charity shopping.

5. Get same day delivery on Argos

Argos offers same day delivery on most of its items, so it is a good resource if you are keen to get settled into your new space. It has everything from lamps, to bed frames, to kitchen appliances, so you can order everything in one go. They also have some great artificial flowers and plants if you have a tendency to kill the real thing.

Stephanie O’Callaghan – Dot Dot Dot

6. Hire a van with Zipcar

If you want to make the most of sites like Freecycle and need a van to pick up larger items, Zipcar is the place to go. They currently operate in London, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge, and you can hire a large van from £10 an hour or £95 for the day. Pick up and drop off points are easy to come by, so it’s perfect if you need to transport furniture from A to B.

For more inspiration for decorating your space on a budget, check out our guide for re-styling your home. If you’re not yet a Dot Dot Dot guardian, apply now online.

 

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