LOWEkey: Why we started our new venture?

Since the 2008 financial crisis, it is well documented that rental growth has raced ahead of wage inflation. This is especially true for those that work in the public sector – where many wages have frozen entirely.

The problem is exacerbated in London. Not only has rent soared to an all-time high (22% rise since 2011) but London’s population is also expected to grow to 9.8 million people by 2025, according to the ONS.

With more and more people looking for housing, as well as spiralling rent (primarily caused by a lack of affordable housing) the outlook is tough, particularly for London’s key workers.

At LOWE, we believe that it’s fundamentally wrong that hard working people that our major contributors to our society – including the police, health, education and non-profit sectors – are being priced out of the areas they work in, despite giving so much back to the local community.

These key workers are the lifeblood of our communities, and deserve better.

But what’s the answer?

Unfortunately, London is already one of the most densely populated cities in the world. There is a limit in terms of the space we have, we can’t simply build more and more. We need to become smarter and more innovative with the space that is available.

Perhaps local authorities could be doing more. There was an interesting article in The Guardian in July this year that complained about the level of public space – the collective assets of the city’s citizen – being sold to corporations. Is selling their valuable assets really the best solution, or could local authorities be using this valuable space in a more productive way?

At LOWE, we’re passionate about the value that guardian schemes can provide – particularly to London’s key workers. Perhaps local authorities would be better off maximising the value of their vacant buildings by allowing some of London’s vital key workers (through guardian schemes) to benefit from their central locations, rather than simply selling them off privately.

The solution would be mutually beneficial; a well-run guardian scheme provides these people (that are vital to our society) with an affordable rental solution in close proximity to their work. At the same time, it provide the local authority with a cost-effective solution to managing its vacant buildings. This is why we have launched our LOWEkey Prioritisation scheme.

We’re not suggesting that guardian schemes are the answer to the housing crisis, but they could provide a stable and sustainable solution in the short term, to protect public workers in our society.

Guardian schemes have other advantages that local authorities should take note of. Aside from the obvious tax benefits, guardian schemes align with the values of local communities. Young people today don’t want to be tied down by long contracts, mortgages, or be burdened with excessive deposits. In today’s fast moving world, even a year is a long time, and many do not want to be confined to a property for this length of time. Being a LOWE guardian, there is only a 28-day notice period, so people can move on quickly if their situation changes.

Another advantage is the sense of community that they instil. At LOWE, we extensively vet potential guardians, and select only those that are the most socially responsible and understand their role as a guardian. We also help build a sense of community by holding film nights, organising barbecues, or just ensuring that our communal spaces are fitted out to facilitate social interaction.

In 2017 there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in London. The problem has become so big that it is unable to provide affordable housing to its most valuable workers in our society. The origins of the problem are deep rooted and complex, but, if done the right way, guardian schemes can alleviate the problem by providing quality and affordable accommodation.