Property Guardianship – Mara Ferreri, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona | Lent Term Seminar

Click on the picture to access the PPT presentation slides.

At times London feels like a city with an ever growing ever deepening subsection of its younger population tied to the temporary life – in work there are 0-hours contracts and the gig economy and in housing, for those who choose it, there is property guardianship. On Monday 29 Jan 2018, Mara Ferreri, from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, spoke to the housing side of this phenomena.

For the uninitiated, property guardianship allows ‘guardians’ to pay below market rent and to live in unusual locations while providing protection to buildings that would otherwise be empty. In theory it offers a win-win scenario to individuals in need of housing and owners in need of security. However, as we discussed the reality is not always so simple.

Ferreri presented her research (which was completed with colleagues Gloria Dawson and Alexander Vasudevan) into property guardianship in London. Based on 32 in-depth interviews carried out with property guardians, she spoke to the insecurity but also the flexibility experienced by those living in these situations. What was fascinating was not so much that people were entering into these agreements, but how the insecurity and precarity of work intersected with the insecurity and precarity of tenure. Many of the interviewees emphasised that there were trade-offs to be made in gaining access to London’s labour market, but that these compromises were not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

Another very interesting point to the research is how intermediary companies like Camelot, Dot Dot Dot Property and London Caretakers Ltd have grown to play a role in connecting and managing guardians and property owners. As noted by Ferreri these companies are not all the same. There are those whose sole function is the provision of live-in security; security companies who offer guardianship as a side-line; and companies that seek to provide a more ethical alternative to more corporate offers. However, no matter the ethos, the formalisation and commodification of short-term housing in empty properties has seen property guardianship becoming an ever more normalised part of London’s geographies of precarious housing and labour.

Questions from the floor included:

  • A very useful intervention from Katherine Hibbert of Dot Dot Dot Property on the new White Paper on The Law on Property Guardianship, which can be found by clicking here.
  • Interesting comparisons between squatting and the short-life housing co-operative movement in London in the 70s and property guardianship today
  • International comparisons of this phenomena and movements in the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium and other parts of Europe.

Click here to download the PPT presentation.

Two articles co-written by Mara Ferreri on this research:

  • Vasudevan, Alexander and Dawson, Gloria and Ferreri, Mara (2016) Living precariously: property guardianship and the flexible city. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. ISSN 1475-5661
  • Dawson, Gloria and Ferreri, Mara (2017) Self-precarization and the spatial imaginaries of property guardianship. Cultural Geographies.

Mara Ferreri is Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow at the Institute for Government and Public Policy (IGOP), based at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain. She has a PhD in Geography from Queen Mary University of London (2013) and has many years of experience working on questions of urban precarity, gentrification and temporary occupations. Before joining the IGOP she has taught and held research positions at Queen Mary University of London, the London School of Economics and Durham University, where she was a lecturer in Human Geography (2015/16). Her current project Commoning Housing (2016-19), funded the EU H2020-Marie Sklodowska-Curie Aactions-COFUND, investigates dynamics of urban enclosures and the emergence of practices of housing commoning between London and Barcelona.

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