Ask any Londoner: finding an affordable flat is near impossible. For an ingenious new project however, impossible's just for breakfast... Dot Dot Dot not only want to help people find a cheap place to live, but also help property-owners take care of unoccupied buildings and help the local community.
Linking Londoners looking for affordable housing with the city's empty spaces may be a brilliant idea, but it isn't entirely new. Paying a low rent to live in a building awaiting reconstruction (or even demolition), aka being a 'property guardian', is a service that a couple of nationwide 'guardian agencies' already offer.
So What's Different About Dot Dot Dot?
Dot Dot Dot gives being a property guardian an extra dimension by connecting a third 'dot' - it's tenants must do some good in the local community in exchange for their cheaper rents. Think of it as homes that help.
Founder, Katharine Hibbert, a former journalist who spent a year living as a squatter, runs Dot Dot Dot as a social enterprise. Set up in 2011, the project has hit a home run, and since rolling out its welcome mat, Dot Dot Dot has found affordable homes for more than 500 people, making it one of our 2014 Join Our Core winners!
What's in it for the Property Owners?
An occupied building is far less likely to be vandalized than an empty one, and 'property guardians' are a cheap alternative to hiring an expensive security firm.
For the guardians themselves, the main appeal of the project is an obvious one: having a roof over their heads. But being a property guardian can also mean living in a community of friends. In an article for the (aptly-titled) Guardian newspaper, Dot Dot Dotter, Emma Howard, compares the property-guardian lifestyle to living in a student halls.
Could I Be a Property Guardian?
Being a property guardian isn't for everyone... For starters, you need to be flexible. Dot Dot Dot can only give guardians 28 days' notice to leave the property they're watching, so children and pets aren't allowed. Because of this, typical property guardians are single twenty-somethings, but older people and couples without kids also do their bit.
To qualify for a Dot Dot Dot property, would-be guardians must also do at least 16 hours of voluntary work in their local community. Dot Dot Dot leaves the choice of charity to the renters, but, in their FAWs, encourages them to pick something they're passionate about. 'Our guardians volunteer at everything from care homes to city farms,' says Katherine. 'One of them even volunteers with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute on the River Thames!'
In return, property guardians pay a rent well below London's usual market prices. After putting down a £750 security deposit, Dot Dot Dot's guardians pay between £55 and £95 a week. And that's it! No other fees involved. That's in a city where the very cheapest flats go for around £120 per week!
Having a place to call home is only part of the appeal... doing something you love and giving something back is a great way to make a different and make new friends!
For Dot Dot Dot property guardians, home really is where the heart is!