Commercial and residential buildings that are unoccupied and vacant for any length of time are far more likely to be subject to vandalism, arson, squatting or general neglect than buildings which are occupied. The cost of repairs, cleaning and preparing such buildings for their next permanent use or redevelopment can often be tens of thousands of pounds and not infrequently run into seven figures.
There are several options to secure vacant properties and managing their security through occupation or 'meanwhile use' is one solution, where not only is the property better protected than if it was left empty, but also where the property guardians themselves can benefit by living in accommodation where they pay approximately half the rate compared to the more traditional property rental market.
There's a Housing Shortage...and yet
Britain's housing crisis has been partly blamed on the lack of homes available to first-time buyers, but according to government data, there are over 200,000 empty homes in England alone, representing £50bn worth of vacant property stock.
If you add to that the number of empty commercial and public sector buildings, such as offices, pubs (18 a week were reported as closing in August 2018), schools, libraries and other government buildings, then well over 10 million sq ft of vacant properties can be added to the empty homes.
In the Netherlands, where property guardian programmes were established in the early 90's, they now have 20,000 people living in low-cost accommodation. The PGPA believe 100,000 people could benefit from property guardian programmes in the UK, providing the sector ensures the safety and standards of the accommodation.
Millennials stay with Mum and Dad
The number of young adults living with parents has reached a record high, with 2018 data indicating one in four people aged 20-34 still living at home.
Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that the percentage of young adults living with their parents in the UK has risen from just over a fifth (21%) in 1996 to 26% in 2017, rising from 2.7 million to 3.4 million in the past two decades.
Young people who want to live and work in their home cities have to move away, prevented by the high rents of the private rental market and the shortage in social housing. Dare we say it, they are up against a brick wall.
Whilst property guardian programmes are a way of securing empty properties from vandalism and neglect, they also provide another, albeit small, solution to the housing shortage, and hope for people looking to live and work in the city of their choice.