EMPTY buildings in York are offering a temporary solution for people struggling to get on the housing ladder in the city.

A combination of the social housing crisis and a post-recessionary glut of empty buildings awaiting redevelopment has created the perfect conditions for a new form of low cost housing, a company at work in the city has said.

"Property guardians" move into empty buildings - from newly built high end flats awaiting buyers, to hundred-year-old schools closed down for redevelopment - to give keep buildings occupied and deter anti social behaviour or vandalism, while owners find new long term uses for them. The practice is said to be thriving in York.

John Teal has lived as a property guardian in York for around five years, and said it offered him an affordable place to live when he first came to the city.

John said: "I was renting normally, but my landlord decided to sell and I had only a month to get out. With the property market like it is in York, I struggled to find anything else."

Property guardians pay much lower "rent" than tenants in conventional homes, but sign "licence agreements" rather than tenancies meaning they have no minimum term and can give two weeks notice to leave at any time, while the property owners can give a month's notice for the guardians to vacate. Often working away from York, the practice suited John's lifestyle, although he admits the temporary nature meant he always had a "back up" arranged with family and friends.

John spent around three years in a disused school in Acomb, before moving to an empty care home in Bishophill and eventually a vicarage in Tang Hall, vacant while the diocese looked for another vicar.

Craig Mitchell, area manager for leading firm Ad Hoc Property Management, said many of the property guardians are artists or people working in the creative industries who are on low incomes and value the chance for an affordable place to live and often work.

Others are people - often older men - who have been through a relationship breakdown and need a short term, cheap place to stay close to their family home.

In total, the firm manages about 2,000 properties including "a handful" in York, Craig said, often working with local authorities or church dioceses who have empty buildings on their books.

The guardians have to be employed and agree to rules including no smoking, no pets, no children and no parties, but are not asked to do anything other than live in the buildings, he added.