Property Guardian building in Central London, 2014
Property guardianship is a fast-growing housing alternative in the UK. Some companies have offered property guardians since the 1990s, but the significant growth in the model is from the early 2000s, when the two major Dutch companies, Camelot and Ad Hoc, expanded here. Most of that has been since around 2007/2008, and is certainly affected by the impact of the financial crisis and the inflating costs of housing, especially in London. It must be noted that the majority of property guardians are currently in London, which has a particularly high demand for living space, high rents and high turnover of empty buildings,
Over 20 organisations in the UK offer property guardians, some as part of a wider security ‘offer’, but most deal purely in guardians. Camelot and Ad Hoc dominate the market hugely. The other organisations are generally businesses set up by entrepreneurs and staffed by 5 or fewer people. They tend to only operate in one area (usually London). Most are purely profit-making businesses but one, DotDotDot, is a ‘social enterprise’ model only for those doing a set level of volunteering in London. It’s not difficult to set up one of these companies – there’s no particular regulation around this mechanism, you just register the company, create the legal agreements and go.
Figures are hard to obtain, but we estimate that there are 3000-5000 guardians in the UK. This is based on how many company offices there are and how many ‘living spaces’ Camelot and Ad Hoc offer, and the fact that there seems to be a fairly high turnover of guardians (even compared to the private rented sector). For example, on 11th April 2014, Camelot UK had 1195 spaces available in 243 properties.
From our research, we think most of these guardians are:
– Aged 20-35
– Low-paid and/or part-time/freelance workers (often working in the creative sectors)
– Students (postgraduate/ mature)
– Migrant workers
– Administrative workers
– Care/medical workers
– Voluntary and community sector workers
And often several of these combined.
This is just a basic outline – over the next few months we hope to provide:
– Key info and advice for guardians
– A basic description of companies
– Map of guardians/guardian properties both in London and beyond
– Case studies