London is in the midst of a housing crisis. The cost of buying a home is soaring, rents are rising, the population is growing and there’s been a drop in the amount of affordable homes being built. Alongside this crisis in London (and across Europe) there has been an increase of private commercial companies who profit from finding people to live in properties that would otherwise lie vacant and be a target for criminals and squatters. In steps working professionals who agree to be property guardians.
‘Guardians’ pay a low rent and essentially provide property owners with security for their otherwise vacant buildings. This ‘rent’ is paid to a private company who acts as a go-between for the property owner and the ‘guardians’. Sounds great, however, this rent is not in fact rent, it is a licence. The contract that ‘guardians’ sign to live in a property means that they have none of the legal rights that private or social housing tenants have. This can result in suddenly being asked to vacate a property because the owners want it back within two to four weeks. The private company has no obligation to rehouse guardians. According to Vice “the UK’s ‘Property Guardians’ live in a world of constant anxiety”.
Worries aside, living as a property guardian can be an opportunity to live in a way that harbours a sense of community and creativity that is hard to find in cities like London. I have experienced life as a guardian and have spent time photographing guardianship. Some of these people have lived as guardians (some in several different properties) for several years. Some of the guardians I have met are a mix of professional artists, writers, charity workers, architects, actors, filmmakers and teachers. All ‘guardians’ do not know when they will be asked to leave what is, for the time being, their home.
Copyright – Ronan Haughton
This is an ongoing project. If you’re a property guardian and would like to take part in this project then please get in touch;