Tim Lowe, Founder and Director of The LOWE Group, sums up the state of the market and cherry picks some of our highlights from the past year, while looking forward to what 2023 has in store…
My position affords me a unique understanding of the current state of the market from a dual perspective. I see consumer confidence dropping, developments and planning being delayed, while affordability is an increasingly critical issue – especially in London.
Young professionals and key workers are finding it extremely challenging to find affordable accommodation close to their place of work, and we’re continuing to see high demand for space – not only places to live, but also the physical workspace essential for creatives. Our arts charity partner SET have reported a marked increase in artists looking for studio space, yet we note the need for general office workspace remains relatively low.
This year we received a record number of applications to become property guardians, and in the second half of 2022 we saw applications treble. To ensure only the highest calibre make the grade, we’ve made major improvements to our vetting process – meaning we recruit only the best guardians to look after the properties we’re entrusted with.
In fact, we rejected around 45% of applicants who failed to meet our strict criteria – and it’s important to clarify that property guardianship is not a life raft, it’s a platform: a short-term springboard to achieving aspirations.
Not only are we selective about our guardians, but also selective about the buildings we repurpose. I’m delighted to have worked with a fantastic selection of clients over the past 12 months and completed a great range of projects across all types of properties, from empty flats, former care homes, vacant student accommodation and even a disused church! These premises are in sought-after locations such as Great Portland Street, Notting Hill, Brixton and Hackney – places where people want to live, and where affordable accommodation or workspace is rare.
I’m also proud of the progress we’ve made building our business, enabling us to offer a full suite of vacant property solutions that bring buildings to life. As well as the continued success of our property guardian scheme we also offer charitable occupation, provide business rate mitigation, community infrastructure levy mitigation and property security services – all innovative solutions that give empty properties new purpose.
Our growing team
This year we’ve worked hard to bring all our property maintenance in-house, meaning we have expert LOWE staff working on each of our buildings for all but the most specialist of jobs. Our property team continues to grow, and this increased capacity allows us to run several projects simultaneously – enabling us to carry out renovations quickly while still ensuring a quality service.
Our inspections team has doubled in size, with our in-house inspectors regularly visiting each of our properties to ensure strict H&S standards are always met. Not only do they carry out vital routine safety checks, but their presence and visibility gives both our guardians and clients peace of mind.
The importance of social impact
We’re always looking to deliver social impact: it’s at the heart of what we do. The effect our work has on the communities we serve is key for both LOWE and for our clients. I’m really excited about our new partnership with AKOU – a company dedicated to recording and measuring social impact through data led evidence.
This means for each and every property we manage, we’ll be able to assess and measure the social impact of our repurposed building – and we’re particularly keen to share these findings with our clients, many of whom list community values as a key driver in their desire to revive their vacant premises.
Supporting local charities
We believe in supporting community charities that are local to us wherever we can, and this year we’ve assisted two south London charities which are particularly close to our hearts here at LOWE.
At The Young Lewisham Project, a youth centre which made a positive difference to one of our team when they were young, we’ve provided both facilities management and financial support; and we’ve also provided funding to Carney’s Community, a boxing gym which runs a fantastic youth programme for local young people from all backgrounds.
Great plans for the year ahead
In a year ending in recession, it’s important to note that there is hope. In the year ahead we plan to continue to grow the services The LOWE Group offers, breathing new life into empty properties to create affordable homes, workspaces, and above all: opportunities. Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy new year.