Empty flats that are set to be redeveloped are temporarily being used as affordable homes for people who volunteer in their local community rather than lying empty and potentially attracting antisocial behaviour.
As flats are being vacated one by one and secure/permanent tenants accept the new homes on offer as part of the South Kilburn regeneration, volunteers are using the soon to be redeveloped homes temporarily. The volunteers ensure that the old properties are maintained, keep squatters out, and reduce the anti-social behaviour that vacant properties often invite.
Brent Council is working with Dot Dot Dot, a social enterprise that houses people called property guardians on a temporary basis. They keep the properties they live in safe and well-maintained, and only require 30 days’ notice to vacate, which makes them ideal for situations where development timelines can change.
The guardians also commit to volunteering at least 16 hours a month for good causes, which means every project makes a positive social impact.
Councillor Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet member for housing and welfare reform, said:
“The first temporary guardian was housed in South Kilburn in April last year, and there are now 19 guardians across four different blocks. They will be joined by dozens more over this year as the regeneration progresses. They have already volunteered over 1,500 hours to good causes, including at local community kitchens, Covid-19 vaccination centres and the Compass network which represents the LGBT+ community within the armed forces.
Evie Power-Charles, who grew up in Queen’s Park and Kilburn, has recently become a Dot Dot Dot guardian, said:
"I wanted to be a guardian to be able to live in a flat that was a reasonable price that I could put my own stamp on as most private tenancy agreements don't let you decorate. I was happy to move into an area I was familiar with.
"I really enjoy my time volunteering at a local community kitchen. When I was looking at places to volunteer, I felt it was important to go as local as possible and get to know the people in my area. It helped me get settled in when I moved in and made me feel part of the community."
Abi Carter, head of growth and partnerships at Dot Dot Dot, said:
“We’re delighted to be working with LB Brent at South Kilburn because we can make a really positive impact. It’s good to be able to provide affordable housing to people rather than just leave spaces empty, and they have embraced the opportunity to contribute to the local community through volunteering with open arms.”
Guardians have volunteered nearly 365,000 hours - the equivalent of 208 years worked - which is worth more than £4.6m to the charitable sector.
The regeneration of South Kilburn is a 15-year project aiming to deliver over 2,400 new homes as part of a sustainable and mixed neighbourhood. Flats are vacated to prepare blocks for demolition. However, leaving them empty can risk them becoming the target of anti-social behaviour or can mean maintenance issues that could affect existing residents aren’t spotted.