Learning from Lilac: Low Impact Affordable living in Leeds, Britain

Apologies to those not in Britain, but there is a really interesting workshop coming up on 10th May in Leeds. Lilac stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community. It is a member-led co-operative housing society building an affordable, cohousing community in Leeds. They are using a co-housing design approach to build 20 houses and a common house from strawbale and timber through a prefabricated product called Modcell (enabling cheap, quick, collective and local construction).

They have just started building (on a 0.7 hectare site in inner city Leeds) and there is a lot to be learnt from this project. In particular they have deliberately organised the project to remain affordable in perpetuity using a mutual home ownership model. In effect each resident pays just 35% of their net household income towards the costs of living at Lilac (and thus if you earn more you pay more). This is not just paid as rent however, all residents co-own the project (through equity shares) and as such all have a vested interest to make it work and maintain it. In order to ensure that the project was within their available budget they have had to make compromises, such as using gas as an energy source, and only aiming to achieve Level 4 of the UK Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes. This was done in part, however, to balance the energy needs of occupants with the cost limitations and is indicative of a participatory and considered approach to low impact and lost cost building.

Lilac also received a £420,000 grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (UK Government) and have funded the bulk of their initial costs through a loan from the bank Triodos.

The group have spent several years reaching this point and have spent considerable time ensuring that the process of the project was democratic and inclusive. They have developed several ‘community agreements’ which all residents have to agree to abide by and include forgoing have tumble dryers and dishwashers in their personal units, using the communal washing machines, and outlines how the communal spaces will be managed. They are also restricting the number of cars on site, insisting on car pooling and have tried to ‘design out’ carbon intensive activities. Overall, this is an exciting project and definitely one to follow. I am not personally involved, however, several of my long time friends are central to the project so I might be a little biased!

++++ Learning from Lilac: An invitation to a day workshop ++++

In association with the UK Cohousing Network (www.cohousing.org.uk)

Thursday 10th May 2012. 10am – 5pm
School of Geography, University of Leeds. University Road. Leeds. LS2 9JT.

Lilac is hosting a day to share its learning to help other similar projects develop their ideas into reality. This day is aimed at those who wish to set up housing projects who have an emphasis on being – community-focused, low impact, co-operative, affordable, member-led, mutual. Topics in the morning will briefly cover:

.       The Lilac project in brief so far – key milestones, challenges, successes
.       How to go about finding land
.       Options for financing your project
.       Developing good group process and making decisions collectively
.       Attracting members
.       The Project Manager and what they will do for you
.       The Quantity Surveyor and what they will do for you
.       The Solicitor and dealing with legal issues
.       Ways forward, networking and supporting projects

Additional topics will be covered in the afternoon reflecting the interests of participants. Please use the form below to state the topics you would like to see covered (for example Lilac’s Mutual Home Ownership model, Lilac’s environmental strategy, grant finding, what is cohousing, the role of a common house).

+++ To Book your place +++

Places are limited to 30 participants. To book your place please send a cheque for £10 payable to ‘The University of Leeds’ and the booking form to: Paul Chatterton, School of Geography, University of Leeds, University Road, Leeds, LS2 9JT.

For further information about the day contact: learning@lilac.coop

[Leicester, 5th March 2012]

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