Below is our collective submission to the London Assembly’s call for evidence on property guardianship this summer.
The first property guardianship (PG) company entered the UK security market in 2001. The growth of the PG market since 2009 has taken place against a backdrop of rising demand for affordable housing in London and elsewhere in the UK. There are over 30 companies now offering guardianship in the UK, with different sizes and models. At least 21 companies have only one single office in London and 12 appear to be exclusively operating in the capital. Official data is scarce, but industry estimates indicate that at least 4000 people lived as property guardians in the UK in 2014; the number is probably greater and a large percentage are likely to live in London. In the capital, primary and secondary data on over 200 property guardians show that guardians tend to be in the age range of 20-45 and precariously employed. Guardians interviewed expressed concern about insecurity of tenure, unsafe living condition and lack of privacy, but welcomed any reduction in their housing costs.
Overall, our research has shown that:
- Guardianship is an exclusionary and highly insecure form of housing.
- Guardianship raises serious questions about housing safety standards.
- As clients, local authorities and public institutions have the opportunity to hold the sector accountable and promote more secure and appropriate forms of temporary housing.
We strongly recommend that:
1. Guardianship schemes meet rigorous health and safety standards.
2. Guardianship should not be exempt from current housing legislation.
3. Guardians should be able to access free, appropriate and independent advice about their housing situation.
4. A review of public institutions and local authorities using PG schemes should be undertaken and information be publicly shared.
5. Tenant-centred models of short-term housing in vacant properties, such as through short-life housing cooperatives, should be given preference over PG whenever possible.
6. Further consultation on this issue is sought from grassroots housing groups in London.
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