You will know when it exists -- Obscure journalism direct from our man on the ground.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

What is a property guardian?

I doubt anybody becomes a property guardian with purely noble motivations. The property guardians I know are a byproduct of the unaffordable rents in London often coupled with the centrality of vacant buildings. If anybody were to become a property guardian for noble reasons they would undoubtedly be on the scheme run by Dot Dot Dot
They were my first port of call though more out of interest than magnanimity. The money I owned was less than zero and my provisional abode was romantically toxic. I was at a party in an old mental hospital that was under the protection of a guardian scheme when friend told me about Dot Dot Dot.

One of the patients of the hospital had constructed a shrine at the back of the garden that mainly consisted of a clay cranium that faced away from you.  For the first time in my life I prayed for money rather than health or love.

Dot Dot Dot soon called me in for a workshop. This particular company differs from other guardian schemes as they are a social enterprise and make sure all of their guardians volunteer for 4 hours a week.

It is a nice business model: if you wish to benefit from the cheap rents offered, then you have to give up a bit of your time to deliver useful services to the needy. A journalist, who had written a book called ‘FREE: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Societyfounded the Dot Dot Dot company.

The workshop explained that a property guardian has less rights than a tenant. Instead of renting the place you have permission to be there. Property Guardians are similar to cleaners; they have the keys to the property and permission to be there but that is about the extent of the legal rights.

The potential guardians were given the chance to ask questions. I asked where the concept of property guardian schemes had originated. Surprise, surprise it had apparently started in Holland in the 1990s. This struck me as being recent.

Squatting grew in popularity since the 60’s and property guardian schemes are a happy compromise, a midway point, between both squatters and landlords. Funny then how it took at a couple of decades before the concept came about. Makes you think: what other great ideas could come about if more consideration went into appeasing all parties involved in a problem?

After the workshop all I could do was be patient because, even with the added clause of having to be a volunteer to get on their books, Dot Dot Dot still a waiting list.

part 2: how to become a property guardian
part 3: what does a property guardian do

1 comment:

  1. nice, looks like an easy and fun job :) keep up the writing!