“Christmas is the time of year when the misery of homeless-ness becomes apparent to everyone. Many homeless people are in this position as rising property prices and rents across London, combined with the housing shortage, has made affordable accommodation in decent locations a mere pipe dream for many young and low-paid people work- ing in the capital.
Yet there are over 279,000 homes across London and Southern England and over 20,000 commercial properties in London that have been empty for six months or more; an estimated 19.4m square feet of vacant commercial space in the capital alone. These empty properties cost their owners maintenance, security and tax payments, yet remain unused. This is not acceptable given the huge demand for low-cost housing.
This is one reason why guardianship, a concept started in France in 1993, is now taking off in the UK. It allows young people to pay low rents – often as low as 25 per cent of market rent – to look after disused buildings, which can act as a valuable solution to the housing short- age. My business, Lowe Guardians, is one of many taking the management of empty buildings off of landlords and occupying them with young professionals, key workers and creatives who can live in them on a temporary below-market- cost lettings basis as ‘property guardians’.”