Southern Housing Group, a leading housing association in London and the south east has teamed up with LOWE to offer empty properties to key workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially run on a trial basis in Stoke Newington, the partnership has been so successful the housing association has plans to roll out the scheme more widely.
Welcoming the initiative, Cathy Bacon, Head of Delivery & Regeneration at Southern Housing Group said: ‘The Kennaway Estate in Stoke Newington is set to undergo a programme of regeneration, so tenants have started to move out of one of the buildings due to be demolished. During this process, tenants can perhaps feel unsafe or lonely so by partnering with LOWE Guardians, we’ve been able to keep this vibrant community alive as well as providing accommodation for essential key workers.
‘Housing need has not gone away during lockdown. It’s our duty as a responsible social landlord to ensure we are doing everything we can to provide homes to those who need them.’
One of the tenants currently living at Taverner House, is Dawn*, a community engagement officer who says being a guardian has helped her become much more empathetic. She said having affordable rent ‘creates more time for yourself to not worry so much about the financial side of things and instead become really connected to the community you’re in.’
Another tenant, Charlie, teaches music production at a college in South London. He said: ‘Being a guardian has meant I can continue working at the college helping young adults, some of which are from lower-income backgrounds and in many cases are vulnerable children from key worker families.’
Tim Lowe, at LOWE commented: ‘We decided to offer some of our properties exclusively to key workers during the pandemic as we wanted to recognise the incredible work they are doing. The high cost of accommodation in London means key workers can struggle to find somewhere to live close to their place of work, so guardianship can benefit both workers and the owners of empty buildings who want to keep them safe and secure.’
LOWE was founded in 2016 with a mission to ensure buildings which are currently going through the planning process can still be put to good use. This is their fourth partnership with a housing association.
Guardianship can sometimes get a bad name as people often associate the term with unscrupulous landlords who charge tenants to live in buildings which have been neglected and are unsafe. Addressing this stereotype is important to LOWE, who fit out all properties for residential use before anyone moves in and have a rigorous programme of property maintenance, including monthly fire inspections.
Since the primary focus is in caring for the building, there is a strict vetting process for potential guardians. LOWE has put in place regulations on holding parties and smoking across all properties to ensure there is a comfortable environment for both guardians and neighbours. Both Dawn and Charlie agree that their responsibilities as guardians ‘aren’t a burden, just part of the lifestyle to be much more mindful of the space you’re in.’
The LOWEkey Prioritisation initiative is targeted at giving priority to key workers who are helping deliver essential services, such as health workers, teachers, social workers, care workers and bus drivers. Southern Housing Group is currently letting properties to key workers through LOWE and plans to let out further properties across the south of England as they become available.”
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