The UK is currently going through a housing crisis. One of the ways proposed to tackle this, is through property guardian programmes. It is estimated that over 100,000 could be able to benefit from such a scheme. At this moment in time, there are approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people across the UK who are living as property guardians, according to statistics provided by the trade body Property Guardian Providers Association (PGPA). However, if more empty properties were included in the programme then the trade body has said this figure could increase 10-fold. With these statistics in mind, we further investigate what it means to be a property guardian.
Property guardianship explained
A property guardian is when someone moves into an empty, disused building. This includes building such as churches, fire stations or even disused schools. The property guardian then keeps an eye and takes care of the building for the owners, and in return, the person will receive discounted rent. Usually, this is at a below-market rate, and oftentimes, around half the local average. Therefore, property guardianship definitely has its appeal.
It has been estimated (by the Property Guardian Providers Association) that if all of the vacant public sector and commercial buildings across the UK were added to the property guardian sector, then a staggering 10 million square foot of property would be available.
Is it easy to become a property guardian?
Currently, it is not particularly easy to become a property guardian. Why? This is because the programme is massively oversubscribed at this moment in time, with a staggering 32,000 applications made in the last financial year alone. Unfortunately, there are not enough buildings available in the property guardian sector to meet demand.
Why is property guardianship happening?
There are obviously many benefits to property guardian programmes, which are often considered to be a win-win situation. These programmes offer people a quirky alternative accommodation option, and offer an aspiring option for first-time buyers, and provide cheap rent giving them more time to spend on saving up for a deposit.
Furthermore, property guardianship means that otherwise empty buildings are kept occupied, lowering the risk of it being vandalised or taken over by squatters, who can be difficult to remove. It also provides the owners to keep more flexibility than would have otherwise been possible with a conventional tenancy contract or a buy-to-let.
Property guardian demographics
Wondering who tends to be most interested in becoming a property guardian? According to research, it is a scheme mostly popular with young people. This should come as little surprise when one considers ‘Generation Rent’ and the difficulty for those under 30 to get onto the property ladder and secure their first home. It is estimated that 45% of UK property guardians are in their 20s, whilst 15% are in their 30s.
It is also estimated that six out of 10 using the property guardian scheme paid less than £500 a month for their property. With the same amount having lived in the building for at least a year.
The area of the UK that had the largest share of guardian property was in London, then Birmingham, Machester and Bristol.