Our 24Housing Award Nomination!

October 5, 2016

We’re delighted to have been nominated for a 24Housing Award this year. We’ll be heading to Coventry tomorrow evening to find out the results. We’re excited to hear about some of the great things that have been happening in housing this year. And we’re looking forward to both seeing some current partners and meeting some new ones.

Why have we been nominated for an award? Read on to find out for yourself!

An Innovative Approach to Estate Regeneration

Housing providers across the country are pursuing estate regeneration.  Managing empty properties is an essential part of this process and this increasingly involves property guardians. During regeneration there is change to both physical assets and, most importantly, communities.  That is why, unlike other property guardian companies, Dot Dot Dot places social value at the heart of what we do.

We believe that social sustainability – building communities that people want to live in – becomes even more important during change.  By preventing decline, we can improve regeneration outcomes, ensuring that new homes are provided in an area that has retained a sense of identity and community. This makes new homes more attractive for new and old residents alike.

Our Approach to Guardianship

Our innovative approach to guardianship is a winning combination.  We select our guardians carefully. From artists to zookeepers, all are reliable and flexible and are committed to giving back to the community through volunteering.  In return, guardians live for less in properties of a good standard knowing they will be treated with respect.

Housing providers save money through property guardianship. But by working with us they also address the social issues associated with regeneration, and enable others to invest time in initiatives that benefit their communities.

For local residents our guardians become valued neighbours. They prevent social isolation and encourage a sense of community and pride during the transition phase. This should not be underestimated.

Our approach doesn’t just work with one kind of property owner or guardian or neighbourhood. Rather, we’ve worked successfully from inner-city estates to home-counties villages. And managed everything from office blocks to stand-alone houses with all sorts of owners. We’ve flexed our methods to suit local needs, but our overall approach has stayed the same.

Where has it worked?

Providing a friendly face for elderly residents in sheltered accommodation

So far this year, we have placed over 40 guardians into properties in High Wycombe. This has been to oversee building security and to strengthen community amongst the remaining residents of a complex, late stage, sheltered accommodation transition.

Our guardians were chosen due to their commitment to and confidence in befriending the elderly as well as their ability to tackle anti-social behaviour.  Consequently they have integrated well with the remaining residents and during 2016 they will achieve the equivalent of 4+ years of fulltime work in volunteering.

One building, over 30 properties, 65 guardians and 6,277 hours of volunteering

In 2016 Dot Dot Dot guardians in an East London building volunteered with 263 organisations, for an amazing 6,277 hours. Additionally, they recorded 15 anti-social behaviour incidents as well as spending 41 hours litter picking!

Beyond the Award Nomination

We have a 100% track record of returning properties in good condition with vacant possession, on time and on budget. Moreover, we truly believe our innovative model works because of our values and not despite them.  Now a team of 18 dedicated individuals, we are not just a social enterprise. We are a business and we are ethical and fair, a good employer and a great organisation to partner with.

So it’s for all those reasons that we’ve been nominated for a 24Housing Award. We’re looking forward to discovering the outcome and celebrating either way. So thanks for the nomination 24Housing – we’re excited for tomorrow!

Hopefully reading this article has convinced you of the great work we do in different contexts. This could be regeneration, commercial buildings or otherwise. Consequently, if you have an empty building and you’d like us to look after it, please get in touch!

How do we cultivate social sustainability during times of change?

May 6, 2016

As an organisation, Dot Dot Dot aims to have a positive social impact on the communities in which we exist. Next week, our Founder and Director Katharine Hibbert will be participating at a HACT round table discussion on the social sustainability of housing. Here, she outlines her view that building sustainable communities is particularly important during regeneration projects:

kath1Communities across the country are having to deal with the changes involved in estate regeneration, to replace poor-quality housing and to increase density to meet growing housing need. Even if all agree that the end result is worth it, the regeneration process is always disruptive. But while the changes to physical infrastructure are visible, the disruption to communities can be less obvious – but just as powerful.

Focusing on social sustainability through the regeneration process can make it less painful for residents, and maintain their commitment to the overall project. Even if they have to put up with building work and house moves, at least they can continue to live in a place where they feel at home, where they know their neighbours and feel proud of their community. And a focus on social sustainability can improve eventual regeneration outcomes, ensuring that new homes are provided in an area which has a sense of identity, and with an existing sense of community, rather than having to build up these things from scratch – making the new homes more attractive for new and old residents alike.

So how can social housing providers maintain social sustainability through change? At Dot Dot Dot, we’ve seen the value of Meanwhile Use for achieving this. Times of change create problems, but they also create opportunities – and where spaces have come to the end of their previous use, they can sometimes be used temporarily for new ones, such as pop-up shops, temporary gardens and homes for property guardians. All of these uses can support social sustainability during estate regeneration projects by contributing to the five elements of social sustainability identified by HACT’s white paper, as follows:

1. Safety and security

Above all, Meanwhile Use contributes to security – and does so far more effectively than heavy-handed security guards. Because an area continues to look and feel lived in and appreciated by residents, it is far less likely to be targeted for antisocial behaviour and crime, and any problems that do occur can be quickly identified and dealt with.

2. Social equity

HACT blogIf homes are decanted or businesses move out of commercial units in advance of regeneration, empty buildings can form ‘psychogeographical’ barriers to accessing services – even if services are geographically close, residents will be less likely to access them if they have to run the gauntlet of threatening, deserted areas of housing. Placing property guardians or facilitating pop-up uses of commercial spaces can prevent this, making areas feel fresh and welcoming even when the long-term residents are absent. East London housing association Poplar HARCA has worked hard to achieve this, allowing a community garden to be set up on a disused tennis court in a regeneration area, for example, which has created vibrancy and footfall in what would otherwise have been a building site, as well as ensuring that as many of their voids as possible are occupied by guardians.

3. Social capital

Simply having more people in a neighbourhood creates opportunities to build social capital – for people to form ‘sidewalk contacts’ (Jacobs, 1961), the ‘spaces of transit’ (Amin, 2002) need to be populated. Placing property guardians or facilitating Meanwhile projects brings more people to an area and gives remaining residents a reason to come out of their homes and get involved. And on top of this, Meanwhile uses often attract incomers who are motivated to get involved and get to know their neighbours even if they’re only there temporarily – and this can create new bonds and relationships which are advantageous for all. Placing property guardians in decanted units rather than boarding them up means that footfall is maintained in local streets and shops, so chance encounters between new and old residents can occur, allowing everyone to feel that they live in a place where there are people to say ‘hello’ to on the way in and out – especially important for isolated, vulnerable residents, for whom these kinds of brief conversations can be their main interaction of the day.

4. Community stability

A core of long-term residents who are committed to active involvement in the community are crucial for social sustainability, and Meanwhile Use is no substitute for that. However, creating contexts where it’s possible for remaining residents to get involved during a period of flux allows those who have long-standing relationships with an area to continue to participate in the community rather than retreating into their homes and private lives. For example, where Dot Dot Dot was placing property guardians on a large east London housing estate owned by Poplar HARCA that was being decanted, guardians got together to clear and revitalise old raised beds, which were then reallocated to remaining residents. This meant that long-standing community members began to leave their houses and get involved in the public space again.

5. Sense of place

skip gardenPeriods of change are a perfect opportunity to experiment with new uses for old spaces, and to imagine how new spaces could be used differently. When the originally intended use of a place comes to an end, it’s a chance for communities to come together to create something new. This can mean murals, or turning commercial spaces into community venues, or holding events on sites where previous buildings have been demolished. This is a potential source of pride, and gives people a chance to put their stamp on a place. The Kings Cross skip garden has offered a way to experiment with new ways to get local young people involved with growing and building projects, and encouraged them to feel involved in the change that’s happening in the area.

In short, Meanwhile Use is not just a nice-to-have during estate regeneration projects. It can make a concrete contribution to smoothing the process and improving eventual outcomes by supporting social sustainability through times of change.

Want to join the conversation? 

Katharine Hibbert will be part of a HACT dicsussion exploring the role of social sustainability and its relevance within the housing sector further on Wednesday 11th May. You can find out more about the event here.

 

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