Dot Dot Dot is a social enterprise. Our commitment to making communities safer and happier by providing property guardian services is at the heart of what we do.
With a strong team and a board of directors including experts on property law, architecture and empty buildings, we offer a professional service tailored to the needs of all three groups touched by our service – property owners, our temporary occupiers, and the wider community.
We sent James Tennent to find out more…
1. How big of an issue are homes left vacant? Apart from organisations like dotdotdot, what else can be done about it?
There are almost half a million long term empty homes in the UK, according to campaigning charity Empty Homes. At a time of housing crisis, when housing is unaffordable for a significant proportion of the population, and a barrier to many people using their time to do things which would benefit the community but which are not well-paid, then I see it as a big issue.
There are a wide range of organisations working to get those properties back into use – from a campaign initiated by Channel 4 following their series The Great British Property Scandal, to the work done by Empty Homes, to a range of local organisations working to get the houses in their area into use. At Dot Dot Dot we’re very glad to fit in to that patchwork – there are lots of reasons why homes end up empty, so there needs to be a range of approaches to getting them back into use.
2. What do you think the criminalisation of squatting has done to/for the problem?
A statement about my view of the criminalisation of squatting is available on our website – http://www.dotdotdotproperty.com/news-and-features/12
3. The project is aimed at volunteers working with local communities, would students or young people on unpaid internships be able to apply too?
We are happy to house people who are willing to commit to volunteering at least four hours a week for a charitable purpose – so if people are doing internships within charities, or are doing voluntary work alongside their internships in for-profit businesses, then they are eligible. We do not usually house undergraduates, but postgrads and mature students are welcome.
4. “Property Guardians” pay around £50 a week and a £500 deposit, the deposit is obviously understandable but what does the £50 go towards?
The £50 a week fees cover our running costs and risk management, and the costs of supporting our guardians’ volunteering and setting up local community projects.
5. What do you think stops people from offering their vacant properties to organisations like yours?
It’s a new idea to many landlords, so they may need to fully understand the potential benefits of having their properties lived in by responsible and considerate people who are committed to voluntary work before going for it. Also, our solution won’t suit all landlords and all properties – for example when properties are in a bad state of repair – so it’s important that there are other organisations offering different solutions which may be more appropriate.
6. How do you pick who goes ahead who in the waiting list?
We are set up to house people who are committed to voluntary work and who will be great neighbours, so we use our assessment of how much each applicant fulfils these two criteria to organise our waiting list, as well as the actual time since they applied.
7. Do you discriminate between different kinds of volunteering work?
We are happy to support any voluntary work which is for a charitable purpose, as defined by the Charities Commission. This open-mindedness is deliberate, as we believe that people achieve the most and are most likely to stick with projects which they enjoy and see as worthwhile, so it’s a matter of helping each individual to find the right opportunity.