Supporting regeneration in Oxford, the city of dreaming spires

May 24, 2022

In July 2019, we agreed with A2Dominion, a housing association with a social purpose, to secure vacant flats on an estate in Oxford during a regeneration project. While A2Dominion were looking for property security, they also needed a strategic partner that would be sensitive and thoughtful when housing guardians, so as not to disrupt or cause difficulties for remaining residents still living on the estate. They also needed to be confident that the security provider would be a reliable steward of their assets and maintain open communication.

Our extensive experience of working within regeneration schemes and our ability to tailor our approach as required meant that we were well-prepared to be the strategic partner that A2Dominion needed.

Providing community-minded guardians to A2Dominion 

Dot Dot Dot’s stringent vetting process ensured that the guardians selected for Gibbs Crescent in Oxford, understood the importance of creating a good relationship with remaining estate residents. In fact, the idea of community and neighbourliness is built into our business model. All of our property guardians are required to volunteer for 16 hours a month for good causes. Guardians who volunteer demonstrate responsibility and commitment and ultimately, make good neighbours.

The (guardians) have 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.” 

A2 Dominion

In total, we secured 22 empty units and created inexpensive housing for 32 property guardians who volunteered to support remaining residents and good causes within the Oxford community.

Amplifying social impact across Oxford 

Our guardians volunteered at Gibbs Crescent itself, and with charities in Oxford. We also connected with an A2Dominion partner aligned with our own values, to provide more focused social value – Aspire Oxford. The charity and social enterprise aims to empower people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage, to find employment and housing.

Through their Employment Skills Training Programme, Dot Dot Dot employed their tradespeople regularly for property repairs and maintenance. These work opportunities, together with support from Aspire, enabled them to attain secure employment and housing in the long term.

Throughout the two and a half years that we housed property guardians in Oxford, our guardians collectively volunteered for over 8,211 hours for good causes, many of which were local to Oxford. This equates to £101,400* worth of social value. Former Dot Dot Dot guardian, Mori, volunteered with Oxford Community Action:

“Volunteering has provided me with a way to connect more with the people around me, and with people who wouldn’t normally be in my social sphere. A lot of people at Oxford Community Action come from immigrant, working class, BAME backgrounds which, as a middle-class, white student, are different to the people I met at university. It’s allowed me to bridge these gaps and form meaningful connections.”

Demonstrating flexibility throughout the pandemic

The emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020, which brought about new working from home practices and periods of self-isolation for staff, meant that redevelopment timelines for Gibbs Crescent were pushed back. Due to those adjustments, there were extra empty properties that needed to be secured with guardians.

To support A2Dominion we adapted our onboarding and property management process to ensure that we could quickly take on another phase of flats on the estate. In 2020, we started to house guardians in an extra five flats, bringing the total to 17. 

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.”

A2 Dominion

A successful handback

When vacant possession was required, we were able to move all of our guardians out of Gibbs Crescent within 30 days. As part of a phased handback, we returned the first batch of properties in January 2022, and the second in March 2022, ensuring they were back with A2Dominion ahead of the next stage of their development.

The success of this contract is testament to our model and approach, and desire to deliver property guardianship with purpose.

Discover more about how we can sensitively support your regeneration scheme with thoughtful and community-focused property guardians who will volunteer for good causes.  

* The social value of volunteering presented uses the Living Wage at £12.35p/h, plus 30% for employee costs  (including National Insurance and pension contributions).

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.

Helping clients weather a perfect storm

February 23, 2022

With rising costs and reduced resources, it can be hard for property owners to invest any time in considering the best option for their empty buildings. Yet just a little bit of work up front will reap great financial and social benefits once properties are under our management, explains Dot Dot Dot CEO, Mark Ackroyd.

I started this week contemplating Storm Eunice’s handiwork – it had peeled off a section of the roof outside our office. Luckily we are used to dealing with properties in ‘unusual’ condition – a hole in the roof was not enough to throw us off our stride.

The same is true for our clients, many of whom started the week responding to storm damage across the UK. Storm Eunice produced unprecedented weather, but somehow dealing with this exceptional challenge felt like  ‘business as usual’. Reflecting on why this might be, I realised that I have never known our clients to be more stretched than they are now – a record-beating storm feels like just another day in the office. And, indeed, many of our clients probably feel like they’re facing a perfect storm of major cuts to their budgets whilst trying to house more people with increasingly complex needs.

Handing over the hassle to us

The priorities for the housing and property sectors are certainly stacking up. ‘Living with Covid’ means making progress on stalled regeneration projects, even when costs have rocketed. It means coping with financially stressed local residents, and with the social aftermath of the pandemic. With housing in the headlines, issues like fire safety, property standards and residents’ rights also need sustained thought and action. This comes after years of cuts have left many organisations with fewer staff and tightly restricted budgets. It’s no wonder that our clients are busy and getting busier.

At Dot Dot Dot, we can’t control the weather. But we can lighten the day-to-day burden faced by our clients when dealing with empty properties. At best, those properties are sitting empty and building up council tax and utilities costs. At worst, they are attracting ASB, making residents’ lives miserable and causing expenditure on hard security (which often doesn’t work).

There can be a perception that engaging a guardianship provider will be a hassle – which is exactly what stretched teams don’t want. But, in practice, it means a few hours on the ground showing our team the site, and leaving us to propose how we’ll process any properties that are provided. We then review the proposal and agree how practical responsibilities should be divided. That’s all it takes to get us started, and we can accept properties at a scale and speed that works for our client.

As long as we have a good line of communication with a client contact who can update us on timelines and make decisions on the ground, we’re able to take on the vast majority of voids management issues. Our guardians will keep them safe, they’ll report ASB, and they’ll report repairs to us so they can be dealt with quickly. They’ll also be conscientious neighbours, which makes life easier for clients who want to provide a pleasant environment even during difficult transitions. Our team will be on the ground regularly, and can take on a wide range of professional management tasks to complement or extend the work of client teams. Those could range from small repairs to wholescale block management.

Short term investment for long term gain

When you’re in the midst of a storm, it can be difficult to see more than a few metres ahead. When your whole team is working hard and under increasing pressure, taking a little bit of time and thought to consider the benefits of a new approach can easily fall to the bottom of the to-do list. 

But, time after time, we’ve proved that working with us is worth it. With millions of pounds worth of properties sitting empty, the cost savings alone can be substantial. Just as important is the practical value of having a reliable and flexible partner on hand to share the load of managing those properties. If it’s the financial savings or the social impact that draw people to Dot Dot Dot, it’s often the support that we provide behind the scenes that keeps clients working with us year after year.

I hope you stayed dry in the recent storms. Give us a call if we can help you to weather the next one. Now, where did I put that umbrella?

You can read more about how we can support our clients by signing up to Meanwhile Thoughts, our monthly newsletter for property owners.

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

Property guardianship and beyond: working with Croydon Council

November 22, 2021

We started working with Croydon Council in 2017, when we took on a former school-turned-NHS building in west Croydon. Over the course of our four year relationship, we partnered with the council to place 28 guardians across both commercial and residential buildings in Croydon and Coulsdon.

Commercial buildings like these can often change and shift their purpose over time, and although our job is to manage the interim, we also play a key part in our clients being able to move their new plans along. We take a look at how a renewed sense of purpose during a property’s transition phase can lay the groundwork for its new use.

Addressing Croydon Council’s meanwhile needs

Managing an empty, disused asset, especially as a local authority, can become a significant financial burden. This was certainly the case at Tamworth Road, a former school that was taken over by the NHS for mental health services. Cost mitigation was an important consideration when we met with Croydon Council in May 2017, who were looking to reduce expenditure on hard security and void management. Once we had brought the building up to the necessary standard, we placed two trusted guardians into the building early on to remove the need for 24-hour security. We also installed signage at the front of the building to ensure it was clear that the building was occupied and managed by Dot Dot Dot. The council were aware that the building was at risk of antisocial behaviour, so it was important to provide a visible deterrent to avoid future issues.

Similarly, in 2018, Croydon Council had concerns over antisocial behaviour and fly-tipping around a former school in Coulsdon Town. We built on our established relationship, and, in July of the same year, we began to house guardians in the building. Each of our guardians was aware of their responsibilities and was assigned a Relationship Coordinator from the start, which allowed us to pick up on any on-the-ground issues early. Due to its location and size, the site was easily identifiable as empty and was a target for ASB and criminal activity. We worked closely with the council’s assets team to create a management plan that included the need for our guardians to maintain the exterior of the property and ensure it was clearly occupied and lived-in. Our guardian community came together to transform the exterior of the property, from overgrown and dilapidated to neat and cared-for, 

Building a meanwhile community

Beyond property security, Croydon Council were aware of the need to reutilise their assets while they sat empty. They were aligned with our values and understood the potential of their empty and underused assets as an opportunity for social value, not only through creating temporary, inexpensive housing and supporting volunteering, but through creating spaces for like-minded property guardians to come together. 

In 2017, we hosted the Housing Committee of the London Assembly at one of our Croydon properties as part of their research into the property guardianship sector. We welcomed Assembly members Sian Berry, Andrew Boff and Tom Copley to the former NHS building to demonstrate how property guardianship at a commercial property can work. 

At the event, Robert Lines, Estates Surveyor for Croydon Council, explained why Dot Dot Dot was the best option for the building’s interim use: “London Borough of Croydon has an extremely positive relationship with Dot Dot Dot and we are particularly impressed with their careful selection of property guardians who share in Dot Dot Dot’s social values and ethos. This has had a beneficial impact for the local community as well as ensuring the property is in safe hands, and we are very pleased to have the building managed and cared for by them.” Tamworth Road guardian, Kit, explained how she was specifically drawn to Dot Dot Dot because of the focus on social impact. She had previously ruled out being a property guardian due to the idea of living in a big building with a group of strangers, but found that “once I knew that everyone was up for 16 hours of volunteering a month, I felt pretty confident they’d be great, considerate housemates, and they are.”

During the time we have housed guardians in Croydon and Coulsdon, our guardians have volunteered over 3,995 hours for good, often local, causes, which equated to approximately £43,000 worth of social value. Coulsdon guardian Julius, for example, volunteered with Croydon Voluntary Action, who “work to coordinate and improve the knowledge of voluntary sector organisations around Croydon and have especially organised a lot during this pandemic, such as networks for soup kitchens and food banks to deliver food and training for volunteer sector organisations.”

Beyond the partnership

Since we successfully handed back the former NHS building to Croydon Council in November 2018, the site has become home to a nursery, a weekly church group and a small care business. 

In Coulsdon, we handed the former school back in October 2021 to enable the council to pursue its plans to develop the site into a new health and wellbeing community centre. The One Croydon Alliance, a partnership between Croydon Council, Age UK and the NHS, will use the site to provide additional GP services to the area as well as talking therapy, children’s services and housing and benefits advice.

Despite there no longer being need for property guardianship in the former Coulsdon school, the project’s end did not signal the end of our Coulsdon community. Eight of the original ten guardians that were housed in Coulsdon have moved to our building in Bickley in Kent, preserving their guardian community and bringing new life to a new property. They have already established a film night, and we look forward to hearing about what they get up to in the future. 

We have learnt from experience that commercial buildings can have rich and varied purposes throughout their lifetimes; we’ve worked in former schools, offices, family centres and even a former castle. It is through building purpose into all that we do – through providing inexpensive housing for our guardian communities and supporting them to volunteer for good causes – that we can contribute to a building’s next stage of life and, in the case of our Coulsdon guardians, foster communities that exist far beyond it.

Discover more ways we can support your meanwhile needs by signing up for Meanwhile Thoughts, our monthly newsletter for property owners.

From Brutalist to Georgian: 10 architecturally iconic projects

November 16, 2021

We have partnered with some great clients and organisations over the past 10 years; they are at the heart of what we do. But so, too, are the incredible buildings and projects we have worked on and housed guardians in. From Brutalist towers to Georgian townhouses, we take a look at some of our favourite architecturally iconic projects from the last 10 years.

 

1. Balfron Tower

Designed by architect Ernö Goldfinger in the 1960s, Balfron Tower, situated in the Brownfield Estate in east London, is characterised by its brutalist design and has been the backdrop of several music videos, including This is Music by the Verve and Morning Glory by Oasis. It also featured on BBC programme The Hustle, the 1988 film For Queen and Country and Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Goldfinger was so taken by his own design that he moved into flat 130 with his wife for two months in 1968. In 2014, the National Trust refurbished the flat to resemble its 1960s heyday. 

In November 2014, Dot Dot Dot secured the 26-storey building with guardians, housing 30 guardians in 20 flats which would otherwise be empty. 

2. Robin Hood Gardens

Robin Hood Gardens was the late-1960s brainchild of architects Alison and Peter Smithson. The Poplar estate was finished in 1972, and encapsulates the architects’ concept of ‘streets in the sky’, characterised by large concrete blocks connected by walkways. In 2012, we housed guardians alongside existing tenants in the emptying estate to support its complex transition.

Despite a high-profile campaign by architects and preservation bodies to save Robin Hood Gardens, it was demolished in 2017. Keen to preserve its history and spark conversations about social housing, the V&A salvaged a part of the facade, which was shown at the Venice Architecture Biennial in 2018.

3. Capella Court

Capella Court in Purley

Modernist in design and tear-dropped in shape, the iconic Capella Court is home to almost 70,000sq ft of office space. It was built by British architects Raglan Squire & Partners between 1964 and 1967, firmly placing it in its modernist context. Located on an island on Brighton Road in Purley, Croydon, it features a huge light-filled atrium and 360° views of London and beyond. It is a popular building amongst locals, and its unique shape has given it the nickname of the ‘VW building’. 

In 2020, we partnered with Peer Group plc to provide security for the building, housing guardians on the fifth floor. In June 2021, Maslow Capital pledged £13.7m to Sheen Lane Developments to transform the disused offices into residential apartments.

4. Thamesmead

Built in the 1960s and deemed ‘the town of tomorrow’, Thamesmead’s distinctive brutalist architecture has been the backdrop to several culturally significant works of film and TV throughout the last 60 years, from A Clockwork Orange to Harry Potter. The social housing estate was designed by the Greater London Council (GLC) division architect Robert Rigg, who took inspiration from housing estates in Sweden where a reduced crime rate was attributed to the inclusion of lakes and canals. 

Dot Dot Dot has worked with Peabody since 2015 to house over 300 guardians in a variety of spaces whilst the estate’s 30-year regeneration takes place.

5. Palace Court

Palace Court is a row of Georgian townhouses on a quiet, tree-lined street situated next to Kensington Gardens in Notting Hill, London. The buildings date back to the late 19th century, with many featuring Dutch-inspired facades. Famous occupants in the area include Alice Meynell, a poet and essayist.

Dot Dot Dot managed 13 Palace Court on behalf of Viridian (and subsequently Optivo) from May 2017 until April 2019, housing 29 people in 19 spaces in the building that would otherwise have been vulnerable to incidences of antisocial behaviour.

6. South Kilburn

Stephanie O’Callaghan- Dot Dot Dot

Craik Court, Crone Court and Winterleys are three tower-blocks located in the Carlton Vale area of South Kilburn. The first flats were let out in Craik Court and Crone Court in March 1967. There are 227 dwellings across the three blocks, from which you can see sweeping views of north London. South Kilburn has featured all over the big and small screen, including in NW, the film adaptation of Zadie Smith’s novel, the 1987 film Withnail & I and the TV drama Trigger Point.

Brent Council is almost half way through its 15 year regeneration of South Kilburn. Dot Dot Dot continues to work with Brent Council to secure flats across South Kilburn, ensuring that blocks remain occupied, existing residents feel safe, and that the transition goes smoothly. 

7. Grove Park Youth Club

Part of the Chilbrook estate in Grove Park, Lewisham, Grove Park Youth Club was commissioned by the London County Council (LCC) in 1965. Sir Hubert Bennett and Leo Hallissey, architects on the team at LCC who were inspired by the Bauhaus movement, also designed other culturally significant buildings in the 1960s including the Hayward Gallery, Michael Faraday Memorial and Crystal Palace National Recreation Centre. 

Dot Dot Dot moved guardians into the decommissioned youth club in 2017. Working alongside the Grove Park Youth Club Building Preservation Trust, three guardians focused their volunteering efforts to help with restoring the building. After handing the building back to Lewisham Council, the youth club reopened its doors on 26th July 2021.

8. Toynbee Hall

Toynbee Hall in the East End

Toynbee Hall was created in 1884 by Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, providing a place for future leaders to live and work alongside those facing poverty in the East End. Their vision was for an interdependent community that addressed the causes and impacts of poverty in the area. Alumni include Clement Atlee and William Beveridge. The building was designed by Elijah Hoole and features a Tudor-Gothic style, and was granted Grade II listed status in 1973. 

The charity still continues its work today, and in 2014 it committed to a regeneration project to develop and refurbish the site. During this period of transition, we housed and managed 65 guardians in 30 different properties, as well as providing estates management service.

9. Wisbech Castle 

Wisbech Castle is a castle located in Cambridgeshire and was built in 1072 on the orders of William I. In late Tudor times, the building was used as a notorious prison, but was redeveloped several more times in the 17th and 18th centuries. The building was given Grade II listed status in 1983.

We partnered with Cambridgeshire County Council in 2017 to secure and care for the 11th century building. Wisbech Town Council negotiated the long-term lease of the building, working with local volunteers to form The Wisbech Castle Project. The project seeks to bring the building back into public use and retain it as a much-loved asset for the people of Wisbech.

10. Kilmore House

Photo credit: Mark Muldoon

Kilmore House is an iconic block of flats in Poplar, east London, made more so by the 2014 addition of an 80 foot mural. The mural was painted by street artists Irony and Bee, and is supposed to symbolise the presence of gentrification in the area. It is thought that the building will appear in the much anticipated fourth season of Top Boy, which is set to air on Netflix this year.

We have secured flats across Poplar since 2011, working closely with Poplar HARCA to look after empty assets and create meaningful social impact in the area. To date, Kilmore House is the only one of our properties to feature an 80 foot chihuahua. 

If you want to find out more about the buildings we manage and whether property guardianship could be right for you, get in touch at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

All handbacks great and small: achieving vacant possession

September 27, 2021

When the time comes for us to wrap up a project and hand the building back to its owner, we build on a huge amount of work that happens throughout a project’s lifespan. 

In this month’s blog, we take a look at some of our most recent handbacks in Shoreham-by-Sea, Lewisham and Whitechapel. Although the buildings may be diverse in size and type, the process we follow to mitigate risks, review our processes and achieve vacant possession is the same, and each project is awarded the same care and attention to detail that we demonstrate throughout our work.

Mitigating handback risks from the start

Planning for vacant possession isn’t just something we do when a property owner gives us 30 days’ notice – it’s considered right from the start of a project. To mitigate potential risks we set clear expectations with the client and ensure that we house only the most responsible guardians.

Housing responsible guardians

In Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex, for example, we agreed on a small, short-term project with Southern Housing Group to help protect residents in an emptying estate. 

We knew from the start that our services would be needed for six months during the estate’s decant period. Like all of our guardians, the four that were placed in Shoreham-by-Sea were aware of the temporary nature of their housing with us and had appropriate move out plans for the end of their guardianship. As a result, we provided an efficient, successful handback within the agreed timeframe. Southern Housing Group commented that “there was clear communication and expectations set, which meant it [the handback] all went smoothly.” 

A flexible approach to notice periods

Whether in a development or community project context, timelines for a property’s next steps can be hard to pin down, and unforeseen circumstances can often result in plans being pushed back. Covid-19 has proved to be an obstacle to many in the housing sector and beyond.

In Lewisham, we partnered with London Borough of Lewisham and Grove Park Youth Club Building Preservation Trust (BPT) to take care of a decommissioned youth club. The newly renovated youth club reopened its doors on 26th July 2021, thanks to the work of Grove Park Youth Club BPT and the voluntary hours contributed by our Grove Park guardians.

The flexibility of our 30 day notice period allowed us to accommodate changes to the proposed timeline when reopening was pushed back due to Covid-19. Despite plans being delayed, our partners had the reassurance, through clear communication and regular review meetings, that our team could return the newly-renovated building on time. 

The handback process: how we achieve vacant possession

When we are given notice and the time comes to hand a property back, there are several strands to take care of: 

i) guardian management

ii) security management, and 

iii) account management

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Guardian management

Our team of relationship coordinators, who are in charge of guardian and property management throughout a project’s lifespan, play a key part in property handbacks.  

Before our guardians receive their formal notice via email, our relationship coordinators call them to discuss move out plans and provide support where appropriate. We always give at least 28 days’ notice before a guardian’s move out date and, where possible, rehouse suitable guardians in our other available properties. Some of our guardians from our Whitechapel property in east London, for example, were rehoused in self-contained flats in the London Docklands area which meant they were close to their previous neighbourhood, and were able to continue their volunteering nearby.

As move out day approaches, we keep in regular contact with our guardians to make sure they are preparing for their move and to assess any potential overstay risks. We also increase our presence on site and increase the regularity of our property inspections to address operational issues and get a general sense of the security of the area. The safety of both the guardians and the emptying buildings are our top priority and we aim to mitigate any risks early. 

On the day of handback, the relevant relationship coordinator and members of our field team will be on site to support guardians with moving out and ensure the property is clear and in good condition. 

  2. Security management

At some of the properties we protect, additional security measures may have been  employed alongside the housing of property guardians. In this case, during the handback, measures such as Sitex or alarms will either be removed by Dot Dot Dot or, if hard security is still needed, transferred to the responsibility of the client. 

At a housing estate we occupied in Shoreham-by-Sea, there was increasing concern about anti-social behaviour in the area and so extra security measures were employed to protect the estate after handback. We transferred the properties to Vigilance, an ethical security company who provide hard security services, who would continue to protect the estate.

  3. Account management

We settle any existing bills as agreed in the service agreement up to the date of handback, and close down any council tax or utilities accounts for which we have had responsibility.

Reviewing our processes

Finally, once vacant possession is achieved and the building is handed safely over to its owner, we send an in-depth end of project review and client evaluation form. We are committed to achieving a consistently high level of service, total compliance with regulation and safety requirements, and a tangible social impact. 

Project reviews include an overview of our activities and provide our clients with transparency around our work. In particular, we are able to share the good news about our guardians’, and by extension our client’s, contribution to social impact in their communities.

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

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.

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