Amplifying her volunteering efforts with Dot Dot Dot guardianship: Karin and the Open HR Forum – Students

May 6, 2022

With the added support of Dot Dot Dot guardianship, west London guardian, Karin, has been able to amplify her volunteering efforts to enable students to access mentoring from real world working professionals. Karin’s initiative, the Open HR Forum – Students, operates on an international scale to create opportunities for HR students to become leaders in their field.

Developing a passion for communication skills

“One of my first voluntary roles was supporting students and teachers in Slovakian primary schools to develop their interpersonal skills. Since then I’ve been passionate about improving communications between students and working professionals in order to bridge the gap between learning and practical experience in the workplace.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I began a course in human resources with the Open HR Forum, to support my continued learning and development around communications in my home country of Slovakia.

I soon noticed a marked gap in the potential to access career consulting and work experience in Slovakia compared with the UK – the only options were for vast sums of money that were unaffordable for most of the students that I knew, including myself.”

Initiating a platform for students to gain real-world experience 

“I identified the need to establish a sub branch of the Open HR Forum specifically for students to gain practical experience and career consultancy. My main aim was to facilitate opportunities for people to be leaders in their field, something that was driven by students, for students, to dictate their own learning and development.

The initiative I’ve created helps to bring HR students together on an international scale, offering them mentoring and support from large professional organisations for free. Each student is paired with a working professional ‘buddy’ who is able to guide them towards applying their theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios.

They can also receive free advice form HR professionals during webinar sessions which has been really successful in helping to feed international knowledge back into the Slovakian education system.”

Utilising guardianship to re-divert time and energy towards volunteering

“Paying lower monthly living costs as a Dot Dot Dot guardian compared with the private rental sector means that I can afford to spend more of my spare time volunteering.

Dot Dot Dot recognising the value of volunteering is really powerful and was one of the deciding factors for me when I became a guardian in 2021. For me, volunteering comes naturally and is something that I’ve always felt comfortable doing – I’ve always cared about giving something back to my community, but being a guardian allows me to amplify my contributions and the amount of time I  dedicate to my initiative.

Guardianship is not for everyone, but there are many advantages to becoming one. I currently live in a large 4-bed townhouse in Hammersmith, west London, and share the property with a teacher, a human rights lawyer and a scientist. I absolutely love my guardian housemates and am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet them – we all have busy work and social lives, however we still find time to meet and relax as a household.

My relationship coordinator, Dominique, has also been fantastic. We feel supported by Dot Dot Dot and their emphasis on being there for the people as well as the property.”

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!”

 

How our guardians will be supporting vulnerable members of the community this winter

December 20, 2021

With the arrival of the holiday season it can be easy to forget that for many, the winter period spells isolation and hardship. But there are plenty of ways in which you can help to share joy with others over the coming months. We sat down with some of our guardians to find out how they’ll be volunteering to combat loneliness and poverty, and to get some ideas on how we can all get involved to spread festive cheer.

Spotlight on: Charlotte and Shout, a free, 24 hour mental health text support service

“I’ve been volunteering with Shout for more than two years now and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done. People can text into Shout if they have no one else to talk to, are feeling isolated or they have relationship problems. Myself and my fellow volunteers are there to provide a listening ear, de-escalate situations and also to empower the texter to seek the support they need.

In my day job, I co-run a mental health app for the LGBTQIA+ community called Kalda. Its mission is to help people to connect with others who might be facing similar issues and to attend weekly mindfulness sessions via our app, which you can search for on IOS and Android.”

Discover volunteering opportunities with Shout and how you can get involved to support their mission.

Spotlight on: Eke and Connection Support, a befriending service working to ensure no one feels alone this year 

“I’m currently linked with six elderly clients who are at risk of social isolation. I get in touch with them to listen, have a chat and brighten their day. If they ever had a problem or needed help with a daily task at home then I’m always on hand to help them out. Connection Support’s team of volunteers also help out with anything from gardening to shopping to picking up prescriptions.

Volunteering as a befriender means that you build strong relationships with the people you’re linked with and provide vital support to those who don’t have families or are on their own, particularly over the Christmas period. They always say it’s so nice to have someone to speak to and to feel valued. That’s what it’s all about.”

Find out more about Connection Support and their available voluntary positions.

Spotlight on: Jack and the Royal Voluntary Service, providing critical support to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic

“As an NHS volunteer responder for the Royal Voluntary Service, who collaborate with Good Samaritans, I put myself on duty to take calls and support vulnerable people in England who are at most risk from the COVID-19 virus to stay well. This is to help support the NHS and social care sector during the ongoing pandemic.

Mostly, I have acted as a ‘Check-in and chat volunteer’, providing short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation. I have spoken with mostly elderly individuals who live alone and are suffering from ill health or isolating, giving them an ear to listen to and assuring that they are not in danger and have everything they need.

It is a really valuable experience because often the individuals I speak to are suffering from loneliness and to help cheer them up and offer them a form of socialising, it’s rewarding.It’snice that even a short telephone call can boost someone’s spirits and hopefully make them feel better about what they are going through.”

The Royal Voluntary Service are always in need of new volunteers to join their team. Head over to their website to sign up.

Learn more about how our guardian community is dedicating their free time to a huge range of good causes across the country.

Want to apply to be a property guardian? Find out more.

Then and now: our partnership with Red Kite Community Housing

December 16, 2021

We have built a relationship with Red Kite Community Housing, a not-for-profit, tenant-led housing association, since 2015. Since then, we have housed over 300 guardians in properties that would otherwise be empty, and we continue to work together to secure properties across High Wycombe.

We caught up with Richard Mulcahy from Red Kite to talk about how working with Dot Dot Dot has enabled them to keep projects running on time and afforded them the flexibility to work around some of the challenges posed by Covid-19.

“Our big development project is in an area called Castlefield in High Wycombe, which is made up of large blocks of flats in three areas: Pettifer Way, Longland Way and Chairborough Road. Before we started working with Dot Dot Dot, we had already decanted all of our tenants, so the buildings at Pettifer Way were completely empty. We originally used Sitex as security measures for the blocks, but it was a very expensive option. We looked at our finances and it was costing us a lot of money. Not only that, but buildings with Sitex and steel sheets all over them don’t look good, and it welcomes antisocial behaviour to the area too. We had to find an alternative, and that’s how we came across Dot Dot Dot.

“From a development perspective, Covid-19 has really changed the landscape that we work in. Firstly, the costs involved in construction have gone up, for example material costs, construction costs and labour. Secondly, there were a lot of hold ups to our timelines where sites had to close down for a period of time during the worst of the pandemic. And thirdly, it means that our buildings have remained guardian-occupied for longer than we would have predicted. 

“Previously, we would’ve asked for vacant possession much earlier on in the project’s timeline, but Covid-19 has changed that. So we changed the way we work, for example we worked out a way to conduct internal asbestos surveys without moving guardians out unnecessarily. The flexibility of guardianship means we can work with Dot Dot Dot, the guardians and our contractors to carry out essential works whilst keeping guardians in-situ right up until we hand the site over to our building contractors. We have continued to work in this way and we find this works for everybody.

“The most important thing about our partnership for me is the relationship I have with the relationship coordinators at Dot Dot Dot. I’ve been really lucky because every single one of them has been superb, and I’ve been able to build great relationships with them. There was also a time when, pre-Covid, there was a social function at a pub where I got to meet some of the guardians in a social setting – they could see who I was and talk to me about any reservations or problems they might have had. Guardians are also required to carry out volunteer work in their local community, this positive contribution really appeals to us as an organisation.

“The flexibility that guardianship allows us is also so important. There are times where, at short notice, we need access to guardian flats and one of the Dot Dot Dot team needs to come up from London and let our contractors in, and that’s never been a problem. Yesterday is a good example of this – one of the team was there to grant access so our contractor could carry out gas checks for a report that was key to the project moving forwards. If he wasn’t able to do it yesterday, it would’ve had a knock-on effect. It’s imperative for us because it keeps our projects on programme. 

“It helps us stay informed on health and safety issues too. For instance, if things are left in corridors, one of our departments will report back to Dot Dot Dot and they can liaise with the guardians to ensure items are removed. It’s never been too much trouble and problems are resolved quickly. 

“All in all, it’s been a good collaboration, a good relationship, and a good service – it just seems to work for us.”

If you’d like to find out more about how we partner with our clients, you can contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com or sign up to our newsletter.

Move to High Wycombe: a vibrant market town surrounded by the beauty of the Chiltern Hills

November 30, 2021

Our self-contained flats in the Buckinghamshire market town of High Wycombe are close to the picturesque Chiltern Hills and just 45 minutes from central London. From a 700 year old market to the best outdoor swimming spot, discover our top picks in the area and how Dot Dot Dot guardian, Jerry, gained his independence through living alone in his cosy 2-bed flat.

High Wycombe former guardian, Jerry

“When I was sharing a house with other people, even with just one other person, I almost always had someone to distract me. Having the chance to live by myself was the main reason I became a Dot Dot Dot guardian.

There were lots of opportunities to live with other people, but having never lived alone I thought it would give me the drive to focus on myself a bit more, and on my business. I needed to grow up a bit and take some responsibility – and it’s been awesome.”

High Wycombe Market

High Wycombe Market

Since the 13th century, High Wycombe Market has evolved to become a vibrant community of creative sellers, celebrating the diversity of the town. Dotted with street food stalls and independent traders, you can get your hands on fresh fruit and veg, antique wares and home-made preserves. Or visit the mouth-watering food court for options from authentic Jamaican to Greek cuisines that will make your taste buds sing.

Explore the town’s greener side

Rye Park boat hire

Rye Park boat hire

High Wycombe is home to large green squares and spacious parks. Discover The Rye where you can hire a rowing boat for a fun afternoon on the water and spot a variety of wildlife. You’ll also find a working watermill with a café where you can sample cakes made using their own flour. Wycombe Rye Lido offers heated outdoor swimming and is perfect to use all year round.

The Chiltern Hills

The Chiltern Hills

The Chiltern Hills

The town is nestled on the very edge of The Chiltern Hills which you can reach by train in 10-15 minutes. Heading to Saunderton will put you at the heart of the hills where you can explore many footpaths to idyllic country villages and cosy pubs – ideal for a pitstop after a day’s walking.

Discover more about our available properties in the area and how you can apply to move to High Wycombe.

Then and now: our first partnership with Poplar HARCA

November 24, 2021

Our partnership with Poplar HARCA, an award-winning Housing and Regeneration Community Association, began in 2011 when Andrea Baker, HARCA’s Director of Housing and Corporate Services, met with our founder Katharine Hibbert. The rest, as Andrea says, is history. Ten years on, we continue to partner with Poplar HARCA to secure properties and support their placemaking projects in east London. 

We spoke to Andrea about how our partnership has strengthened and changed over the years, and how our guardians have provided a reassuring presence during the regeneration process.

“In 2011, Dot Dot Dot entered a funding competition run by Bromley by Bow Centre in collaboration with Investec Beyond Business.  One of the competition panel rang me up and said ‘you have got to meet Katharine [Hibbert, founder of Dot Dot Dot]. As soon as she walks in the room you’ll know why.  Let her pitch because she’s got something that will benefit Poplar HARCA’s residents.’  I set-up the meeting with Katharine, and the rest (as they say) is history!

“We are a regeneration organisation, which means we manage large scale development schemes that require blocks to be vacant by a specific date.  In the period between all our tenants moving out and bulldozers moving in, residents continue to live in the block and on the estate.  We have got the challenge not only of physically securing properties, but also ensuring a continued sense of security for the remaining residents until they move to a new home.  When there are fewer and fewer people in the properties and around the area, it’s less lively which can be quite scary.

“Fundamentally, the challenges of 2011 haven’t changed. We still hear concerns from our residents about safety, but these are exacerbated by media reports, especially if something awful has happened in the area. Residents feel less secure, and want reassurance. 

“During Covid-19, because most of our staff worked from home, there was a risk we became more remote from our residents’ experience. It was incredibly reassuring to have that on-the-ground intelligence from guardians living locally. If something was going on that they were worried about, we knew they would tell us about it. 

“The biggest difference that Dot Dot Dot offers is that guardians are part of, and engage with, the local community. They don’t just live in the property – they’re out and about, chatting with neighbours, they live in the property rather than just occupying it.

“Trust has been the most important thing about our relationship with Dot Dot Dot. I have never had cause to doubt that Dot Dot Dot shares our values.  The intent and purpose of the organisation has always been strong. The guardians who live in our properties are a group of people who don’t have any expectations in terms of long-term security of tenure, so they absolutely know what’s going to happen when. But despite that, they make it home. They put down, albeit temporary, roots, and genuinely engage with neighbours. That’s really important to us. Whatever the fairydust is that Dot Dot Dot sprinkle on the guardians – it works. 

“The trust has strengthened over time. We’ve tried new things, Dot Dot Dot have tried new things – some have worked, some haven’t.  But that has helped cement the trust because, when things haven’t worked, we talk to each other. They are a valued partner, not just a contractor.  Long may our relationship last.”

If you’d like to find out more about how we partner with our clients, you can contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com or sign up to our newsletter.

Photo credit: Mark Muldoon

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. 

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