Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Empty Cambridge properties in the sights of social enterprise scheme Dot Dot Dot

In an age when the housing market is more competitive than ever, you'd be forgiven for associating empty properties with neglect and possibly even crime.

However one innovative social enterprise scheme is looking to change all that – and what's more, it has set Cambridge in its sights.

Dot Dot Dot, an award-winning social enterprise, is coming to the city to introduce its scheme through which people can become temporary 'property guardians' of empty buildings in exchange for carrying out volunteer work.

The void properties used are empty pending regeneration – and cannot be used to house long-term residents – but can be lived in on a short-term basis.

In exchange staying in the properties – which are available for a fraction of ordinary market rent – the scheme's guardians must commit a minimum of 16 hours voluntary work per month.

Katharine Hibbert, director of Dot Dot Dot, explained the pioneering scheme would help tackle the "big problem" of empty properties in the city.

She said: "It's about making sure as many properties are lived in as possible, because empty homes can be such a big problem.

"In an expensive city like Cambridge they are a massive waste – they attract crime and look ugly, and they're really bad news for landlords.

"Quite often places are empty because they are waiting for refurbishment or demolition, so it's difficult to put people in for a long-term basis."

On their decision to come to Cambridge, Katharine added: "I spent several years living in Cambridge and someone in the office here is from Cambridge so it's a city we know very well, which we are very fond of and enthusiastic about.

"We know what a strong volunteer sector and community there is here, and how hard it is to find affordable places to live."

Dot Dot Dot's arrival in Cambridge may well be just in time for those who struggle in the current housing market as it follows recently released figures which show house prices in England have risen annually by 12.9 per cent.

The data, released by the Office of National Statistics, also revealed that the average house price in England is £285,000.

Commenting on the rise, Shelter's chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: "Ever-rising house prices mean more young people and families stuck in the 'rent trap', without a hope of a settled home of their own.

"Shelter's recent research showed five million renters are unable to save anything towards a deposit from their monthly income – an increase of 13 per cent in the last two years.

"The political parties are busy announcing schemes to help first time buyers, but the reality that this problem won't go away unless they commit to build enough genuinely affordable homes.

"This is the only way to make sure young people and families have the chance of a proper place to call home."

Dot Dot Dot is now seeking people over the age of 21 who are willing to give 16 hours a month or more to a charitable cause.

They are hosting an information night tomorrow at The Cambridge Brewhouse from 6-7.30pm.

Sources from: Cambridge-news.co.uk

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