Tailoring a management plan with A2 Dominion in Oxford

February 11, 2021

Gibbs Crescent is an estate made up of studios and 1-bed flats, located by Osney Marina in west Oxford. Since July 2019, we have worked with A2 Dominion, a housing association with a social purpose, to house property guardians whilst the estate prepares for a period of regeneration. We currently house 19 guardians across 17 flats in the estate. Since our occupation in 2019, Oxford guardians like Beth have contributed 3,691 hours to good causes. 

 

A set-up plan to meet individual needs

When a client comes to us with an empty asset, their list of priorities will rarely exactly match that of the clients that have come before them. We manage a varied portfolio of properties and the clients we work with are just as varied. With that in mind, we know that taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not deliver the best results. We can call upon our previous experience of what has worked well in the past in a variety of projects to propose a tailored management plan that suits a new client’s specific needs.

 

What A2 Dominion needed at Gibbs Crescent

At Gibbs Crescent, it was important to A2 Dominion that we be sensitive to existing residents on the estate. In any project where there are existing residents to consider, it is vital to hand properties over to Dot Dot Dot in an appropriate way that will not disturb the residents or attract any negative attention. We initially took on 12 flats so as not to over-occupy, expanding to 17 in 2020. In this way, the introduction of guardians to Gibbs Crescent was manageable for both Dot Dot Dot and A2 Dominion, as well as not inconveniencing residents. 

A2 Dominion are particularly happy with their experience of using Dot Dot Dot guardians to secure their empty buildings, and said about their work with us: “Our experience with the guardians has been very positive. Once the void properties have been accepted there is very little involvement from our side. Having the guardians in the void properties has given us the peace of mind we needed whilst preparing to redevelop the estate. The guardians have been invaluable as they have enabled us to identify leaks, which we would have been otherwise unaware of and would have potentially caused structural damage if left undetected. They have also made us aware of some anti-social behaviour on the estate and have helped to maintain a number of the small private gardens in the empty properties, even working alongside some of the remaining residents to grow their own vegetables.”

A central part of our model for property guardianship is to only house well-vetted, responsible guardians who are interested in volunteering in their local community; this ensures that they will be sensitive to their surroundings and the other people that live there. It is also important for us to house a diverse range of guardians, and we are particularly happy to be able to house people that are local to the area. Our Oxford guardians vary greatly in age, from 21 to 62, and 14 were living locally in Oxford and two in Oxfordshire before their guardianship. 

As we offer a flexible and open-minded approach, we are able to better collaborate with our clients to allow them to spend their valuable time and resources on the things that matter to them most. In the case of Gibbs Crescent, we worked together to develop a triage process, in which responsibility was clearly divided between Dot Dot Dot and A2 Dominion. In many cases, projects are time sensitive because empty properties can pose a security risk. We are committed to fast service delivery in Oxford, aiming to turnaround the triage process within two weeks. You can see the flow of the triage process below. 

 

 

A flexible approach to property management

As our Head of Services, Mark Ackroyd, explores in his ‘On the ground’ blog, understanding at the outset how property management will operate across the lifetime of a guardian contract is critical to delivering maximum benefits for property owners. That’s why we offer a flexible approach, which can be modified and calibrated to our clients’ changing needs.

As the property industry was hit by the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020, many in the sector had to adjust to a new normal and in some instances redevelopment plans were put on hold. It is at times like these that meanwhile residential use is so vital – to avoid the plight of empty buildings which can so often be empty for longer than intended due to factors out of the client’s control. As was the case with many of our clients’ plans, redevelopment timelines at Gibbs Crescent were pushed back to keep everyone working as safely as possible. We were able to offer a solution by taking on another phase of flats on the estate, growing from the 12 properties we managed in 2019 to 17 properties in 2020. 

Because we build flexibility into our approach, we can modify our practices instead of having to overhaul them completely, and we are resilient when met with obstacles such as the Covid-19 crisis. Our agile model allows us not only to meet our clients’ needs, but also to adapt to new challenges when they arise. 

If you’d like to find out more about our agile approach to property management, you can sign up to our newsletter here or get in touch with us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

How Dot Dot Dot can bring value to your area: working with Soha in Henley-on-Thames

September 8, 2020

Mount View Court is an over-55s sheltered housing estate in Henley-on-Thames, made up of 50 flats in total. It is owned by Soha, a housing association working in South Oxfordshire.

Since October 2019, Dot Dot Dot has worked with Soha whilst the estate goes through a period of regeneration, to sensitively and effectively house guardians into empty properties. 

Social impact is at the core of what we do at Dot Dot Dot. We have extensive experience of working with housing associations to secure properties in complex sheltered housing environments, and we only house the most reliable guardians to ensure the transition is as mindful and secure as possible.

 

1. Staggered setup process

During this time of transition, we have worked closely with Soha to develop a management plan that not only provides security for their empty assets, but is also sensitive to the needs of all stakeholders. As a housing association, Soha’s first duty of care is to their residents, so it was important to minimise risk and take the needs of those who still reside in the estate into account. 

We identified three flats which would allow us to house guardians quickly and safely, for an initial three month pilot. The pilot has been a success, and we have an agreement in place with Soha to introduce more guardians in the coming weeks and months.

Using a staggered approach allowed us to secure the properties in a timely way, whilst also ensuring a smooth transition for the estate’s current residents.

 

2. Careful selection and introduction of guardians

When putting together a management plan for Mount View Court, it was important to Soha that the transition to housing property guardians caused as little disruption as possible. We take great pride in going above and beyond in the way we collaborate with our clients. As a result, we are responsive to their needs and the needs of the communities in which they work.

We worked with Soha to come up with a plan to introduce guardians in a sensitive and appropriate way – carefully selecting and inducting three guardians who understood the context of their new community. They embraced the need to be good neighbours and were willing to form relationships with existing residents. We tailored our vetting process to ensure that prospective guardians were interested in helping with activities like shopping, gardening and befriending older residents as part of their 16 hours of volunteering per month. The need for good neighbours became even more important in March when Covid-19 required that everyone stay at home. With isolation becoming a daily reality for many, the need for connection amongst neighbours and the power of volunteering has become more apparent than ever. 

 

3. Supporting relationships with neighbours

Developing strong relationships is vital in any regeneration project where there are existing residents. We have open channels of communication with Soha and their residents to understand their needs and provide information about Dot Dot Dot and our guardians. 

We helped Soha to educate and inform their residents about Dot Dot Dot and our approach, and to assuage any concerns they may have. Before Covid-19, we had planned some meet ups to introduce guardians to the residents and allow a space for the guardians to meet their new community. Covid interrupted these plans, so we had to innovate in a way that would still foster a sense of community, despite the need for social distancing. We shared case studies of each guardian with information about their interests and volunteering, and included contact details should the residents need to contact our guardians. This meant the residents had a listening ear to call on or could ask for help with shopping.

 

4. Making a difference in the local area

Since January 2020, our Henley-on-Thames guardians have contributed a total of nearly 300 hours of volunteering, and have continued to do so during Covid-19. Without them, local charity shops would not have had extra staff, and local music events wouldn’t have been organised. Through encouraging volunteering in the Henley local area, we see the mutual benefits of community to both the guardians and the residents. Samuel, a Dot Dot Dot guardian living in Mount View Court, says: ‘It’s an incredible community to live in and I’m fortunate enough to be a part of it’. 

 

Dot Dot Dot: property guardianship with purpose

The 16 hours of volunteering contributed by Dot Dot Dot guardians is central to our mission, but this is not the only additional value Dot Dot Dot can bring to an area. Careful management allows us to adjust to the needs of individual clients, projects and unique circumstances. Our agile and flexible approach has allowed us to collaborate with stakeholders despite the challenging circumstances presented by Covid-19. By building purpose into everything we do, we are unique in achieving additional value in the communities where we work. If you would like to get in touch with us about securing your empty asset, you can request a callback here.

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