Property Guardianship – security with a social dimension?
With much commercial property currently vacant and a lack of social or affordable housing, is Property Guardianship one way to help resolve both problems?
From the start of lockdown when offices and shops closed and people found themselves working from home, little did we realise how this would change the way businesses operated and that the changes would become permanent for some, even when lockdown ended.
This change to the way we work, along with continuing improvements in the digital communications world, means people can be at their desks and in meetings while they sit at home. But the wider impact this is having on commercial property is profound.
Executives from across the property spectrum, along with those in the business world, are now reviewing their future property requirements while they take into account the impact of this new way we work, and if it will be temporary or permanent. It also impacts the many small retail shops and hospitality outlets who service the occupants of office blocks and commercial centres.
But while they try to decide what the future will look like, vacant buildings patiently wait for occupants to return. Unfortunately, this is an invitation to all kinds of criminal behaviour which is an ongoing problem for anyone responsible for property security and safety.
Against this background, serious social problems are growing – a result of the pandemic, Brexit and many other causes, but all coming together in a perfect and unexpected storm.
Homelessness. Fuel poverty. Heating or eating? Above all, the lack of social or affordable housing is an undeniable fact. Escalating energy bills along with rising food prices will cause untold problems for a lot of people this winter, especially the lower paid, and food banks will do a roaring trade. Indeed, the price of everything around us seems to be going up and for those already struggling to make ends meet, and pay their rent, and get to work, it’s a grim outlook. Many people lost their jobs and then their homes during the pandemic and lockdown, and yet both property prices and rents continue to rise inexorably, which will only exacerbate this problem.
What is the answer? There are plenty, but it’s a complex set of issues for which there is no quick solution. However, I would suggest minds could turn to looking at both these serious issues and considering one alternative way out. Repurposing.
While deciding what to do with your vacant commercial space – sell or re-let, sit tight, re-develop or refurbish – if it’s going to be unoccupied for more than six months, put the building to good, albeit temporary, use and solve your security problems at the same time.
Any decision on the property’s future will take a while, but while pros and cons are considered, with a bit of minor tweaking, the property, large or small, retail or commercial, can provide living accommodation for a few of those up against it. People who are working but don’t earn enough to pay the high rents demanded by properties in city centres – city centres where they need to be to work. They could be NHS staff or carers, delivery drivers or shop workers: key workers come in many guises, but that is what they are, key workers needed to keep our important services running, and often their wages are low and their hours unsocial.
Property Guardianship is the sustainable repurposing of unoccupied buildings and offers property security by occupation. It complies with British Standard BS8584:2015 Protection by Occupation and no Planning or other Consent is needed to utilise it, such as Change of Use, for a limited period of six months.
A small area of the building needing protection is temporarily furbished to provide kitchen, bathroom and living facilities if any of these aren’t already there, and in this way the building gets live-in security and some deserving working professionals have an affordable home. Guardianship provides a deterrent against theft, vandalism, ASB, squatting, fly-tipping and other issues that frequently cost asset owners time and money.
The guardian company temporarily takes over responsibility for the building from the property owners/managers and the guardians they place in the property pay around 40% less than equivalent market rates for their living spaces. In return, as well as providing on-the-spot security, having a live-in guardian means the main fabric of the building is kept an eye on as either they or regular company inspectors would soon spot leaking pipes, cracked windows, etc. and advise their maintenance team.
Occupying vacant properties provides huge social value for all concerned and with the savings the guardians make, they can plan for their future. The concept is a simple but effective property security solution and an inexpensive one for the property owner, who can save on business rates, insurance premiums, and much more.
The concept has never been more relevant than in today’s uncertain climate while the country and economy recover from the past two years and hard-working people on low incomes can find a helping hand.
CEO Global Guardians