London-based company Lowe Guardians, and others like it, have an interesting business model. Technically a property management company, what they do is target landlords who have empty properties—which are often targets for vandalism—and protect those properties by installing live-in guardians.
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These guardians come in the form of young creatives and professionals who are willing to live within, say, an empty industrial space. LG's clever move is to occasionally have two sources of income on a property that they don't even own; sometimes the landlords pay for guardianship, and the guardians always pay rent. On top of that, they're essentially pulling affordable housing (some of LG's prices are as low as £400 a month!) out of thin air in one of the world's more expensive cities to live in.
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LG doesn't just hand over the keys to their (carefully-vetted) guardians, but endeavors to make the spaces livable, they say:
Every space has fully functioning kitchens, showering and washing facilities. We also provide a cleaner, WiFi, amazing communal spaces and events; all included within your license fee.
We establish a sense of community with every space that we take on. This could be holding a film night for our guardians, organising a barbecue, or just ensuring that our communal spaces are fitted out to facilitate social interaction. Whatever it is, we ensure to create an engaging, positive space that it is treated with respect. For landlords, there is an obvious benefit; their property is being monitored by a highly engaged guardian scheme at little or no cost.
Because these vacant structures might be anything from office buildings to old pubs to warehouses to former police stations, LG teamed up with architecture firm Studio Bark to create easy-to-assemble dwelling sheds to be installed inside the spaces.
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I would love to see this model ported over to New York City, where if you look carefully, you'll see a shocking amount of empty and run-down buildings even in desirable neighborhoods like SoHo and TriBeCa. I think a lot of young folk would be happy to live in a (formaldehyde-adhesive-free) OSB box tucked inside of an enormous 19th-Century cast-iron warehouse building in Manhattan.
The company, by the way, was set up by Tim Lowe, the guy who tried living in different types of low-cost alternative housing in London and documented it on video.