Why more local boroughs should take a guardianship approach

Barwick House in Acton Gardens, a property that would otherwise be vacant, has been home to around 50 young professionals and key workers for the last two and a half years.

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These guardians keep the property secure, mitigating the risk of squatters or vandalism.

They also bring a sense of community to the estate, creating diversity and helping to keep local amenities alive.

Acton Gardens is a regeneration partnership between Ealing Council, L&Q Housing Trust and Countryside Properties who are currently redeveloping the South Acton site to bring 3,400 new homes to the area along with brand-new community services, retail spaces and modern park facilities.

With the former residents of Barwick House rehomed, the building would otherwise be left vacant until the developers are ready to demolish the site and start building.

Instead of sitting empty, this short-term vacant space has been put to good use by providing affordable housing solutions for key workers and young professionals working in the borough.

It’s a win-win.

For the local authority, the guardians in situ provide peace of mind that the site is safe and secure until they are ready to take it back.

It takes away any risk of squatters moving into the building, which can be timely and costly to remove.

All guardians are vetted extensively resulting in a socially responsible, reliable and professional community who take excellent care of the buildings they protect.

Guardians are licensees rather than tenants, which means they have a 28-day notice period to vacate the building when the developers are ready to take it back.

So why aren’t more local boroughs putting guardianship schemes in place?

There is a huge amount of regeneration happening across the UK, particularly in London.

Councils that adopt a guardian approach should be rewarded for looking at creative ways to help meet their housing targets, no matter how short term.

There are no extra or ongoing running costs to the landlord, but the savings are significant.

By putting guardians in place, the average landlord saves on security costs, insurance premiums and empty building rates.

The guardianship company covers the costs of the fit-out, ensuring the accommodation is of a high-standard with a team on hand to oversee any issues that arise.

Guardians keep a local area alive, ready for the next influx of residents.

Rather than leaving a building empty, why not offer guardians the chance to live for less while supporting the local area.

The UK government needs to make a consolidated attempt to tackle both the current housing crisis and spiralling rents which force many key workers and young professionals away from the areas they work.

In the meantime, Local Authorities and Housing Associations that adopt guardianship initiatives recognise the social value and how doing so can help to alleviate some of this pressure while keeping their local communities alive.

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