A little over 6 years ago LILAC Co-Housing was just an idea being discussed by a group of ordinary people from Leeds. Now those who needed affordable and sustainable homes ~ and worked so hard to make the idea a reality ~ have moved in.
The project idea was first discussed back in 2006. The group wanted to be able to live well on local wages, in comfortable homes that didn’t waste resources or damage the environment.
“We had a vision to build our own homes,” recalls Paul Chatterton, a founder member of LILAC. They officially formed as a co-op with a grant of £4,000 in 2009. Paul adds “We talked to anyone and everyone about how we might pull this off.”
The defining moment was when the project found the right piece of land. They bought 1.7 acres that had previously been an old school site from Leeds County Council. Twenty households were planned, complete with allotments.
Building Low Impact Housing is increasingly important to people. It is also entirely possible. The houses were built from a modern pre fabricated system with very high levels of insulation and they included local materials, notably straw bales. Windows were triple glazed with a ventilation system that circulates fresh air without heat loss.
This is not a low-tech approach. For example, the architects have included monitoring sensors to provide a warning in case moisture should accidentally get into the straw. There is also solar hot water and PV. Water collection and usage is combined with a sustainable drainage system (known as SUDS).
The dwellings include family houses, flats, allotments and a common house. The common house includes accommodation for visitors, a meeting room, a laundry room and shared tool shed/workshop. There is also a bike shed and a car share club, which has allowed the planning guideline for 2 car parking spaces just outside each flat/house to be waived and replaced by reduced car parking on the periphery and “a brilliant car free hub in the middle.”
The financing system is quite clever. It’s designed around a co-operative with mutual tenure. The mortgage is paid back collectively, based on a percentage of income, with a clause to allow, for example, for an individual contributor losing his/her job. The land itself has been transferred into permanent ownership of the members. To give you an idea, a one bed flat costs £88,000 with minimal day-to-day living costs due to the overall design of the buildings. The defining factors that make the LILAC development healthy and affordable to live in include super insulation, solar water heating, allotments and shared facilities.
This article came about as a result of some research work on behalf of a project called Home Presteigne. Find out more about this local sustainable affordable housing project at www.home-presteigne.co.uk