Saturday, 10 January 2015

Practical Synthesis: LILAC Housing Cooperative

(Official website

Our Mission

We are LILAC
LILAC stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community. We are a pioneering, low-carbon, permanently affordable, sustainable mixed urban housing community of 20 homes in West Leeds. Whilst most British cohousing has been relatively sustainable, socially and ecologically, we also hope to set new standards for affordablilty.
Low Impact Living
Design features, some shared living and individual commitments will ensure we reduce energy and resource use – save money. In the main we are using natural building materials and harnessing renewable technologies as we work towards zero carbon design and energy use.
We are a new and unique financial and legal entity called a Mutual Home Ownership Society (MHOS). This involves member residents paying 35% of their monthly income towards their equity share. On leaving residents get an out-payment linked to national wage changes rather than the housing market fluctuations. The cost of building has been reduced by using the cheap material of straw. Homes will not be quite so big as some necessities will be shared in the Common House. All of these measure will help make sure that moving to – and living in – LILAC should always be affordable.
The design foster conviviality and community interaction by using the cohousing concept that mixes private dwelling space and shared facilities. The Common House includes shared cooking and eating facilities, meeting space and play area. The design creates a beautiful living space which maximises as appropriate green spaces, areas for food production and social interaction.

35 adults and 10 children that has been up and running for 18 months after around six years of planning and construction. Its 20 individual, private housing units are grouped around a communal garden and courtyard, with shared facilities such as a laundry room, workshop, allotments and bike sheds. Central is a common house where residents meet, cook and eat together twice a week, hold parties, collect their mail, host local groups and collectively govern their little community

Co-housing originated in Denmark in the mid-1970s, and swiftly became established in Scandinavia, Germany and the US. A few co-housing communities have emerged in the UK over recent years, and the idea is now rapidly gaining momentum with more than 60 projects in the pipeline.

“The design principles encourage social interaction,” she says. Co-housing is attractive to single people, especially in older age groups, who want to live neither in isolation nor in conventional senior housing, and to families looking for supportive environments in which to raise children and juggle work commitments. All groups and communities have a strong desire to collectively reduce their environmental footprint.

According to Stephen Hill, director of C2O futureplanners, co-housing projects are part of the building blocks of cities of the future. “We’ve lost the plot of how people want to live and how to adapt to social and environmental change. The accepted thinking is that we don’t really live in neighbourhoods any more. But actually people are desperate to feel they live in a place where they can relate to others, in a naturally protective environment that enables people to be more active citizens.”

In Leeds, the community is founded on sustainability and affordability. Lilac (an acronym of low-impact living affordable community) is built on the site of a former school in an unfashionable area of the city. Its buildings, constructed from timber, straw insulation and lime, communal gardens and shared facilities are in stark contrast to the surrounding rows of terraces and semis, but Lilac is keen to extend the hand of friendship, offering its neighbours several allotments, a “pocket park” and a meeting space for community groups.

The age of Lilac’s members runs from early 20s to over 80, and the housing units range from one-bedroom flats to four-bedroom houses. The 20 households share five washing machines in a communal laundry room and dozens of bikes, and between them own 10 cars – much lower than the 2011 national average of 1.2 cars per household – which are parked on the site’s periphery.
All the homes face into the gardens, though each has a small area of private outside space. A large decked terrace overhangs a pond which acts as a drainage system. Solar panels keep power costs at a minimum and provide a modest income which is used to fund the common house. Members cook a communal meal there twice a week; attendance is voluntary.
Lilac has a complicated ownership structure. All members buy shares in a mutual company which owns the site and properties, initially paying the equivalent of 10% of the value of their property. Thereafter they contribute 35% of their income, accruing more shares. If they want to leave Lilac, they sell the shares they own. All members are required to have some income.

The architects

Current Site Plan

Typical Floor Plan 1 and 2 Bed Flats

In total there are six 1-bed, six 2-bed, six 3-bed and two 4-bed houses. 

Main Sustainable Building Material

ModCell® is one of the first products to make large-scale, carbon-negative building a commercial reality.
The ModCell® system utilises the excellent thermal insulation qualities of straw bale construction to form prefabricated panels, made in a local Flying Factory™.
ModCell® allows super-insulated, high-performance, low energy ‘passive’ buildings to be built using renewable, locally sourced, carbon sequestering materials that include straw bale and hemp to create a less than zero carbon construction system.

This innovative, offsite-manufactured wall and roof cladding system can be quickly and efficiently installed, creating buildings with thermal performance up to three times higher than the current building regulations require. 
This super-insulated system, combined with our airtight details, means that buildings constructed using ModCell® panels meet the demanding PassivHaus specification. As a result, ModCell® buildings can have zero heat requirements, saving money and CO2 emissions.

Where is LILAC ?
Bramley, Leeds (Kirkstall Mount) (Lilac Grove)
The area itself is quite local to me and so I know where about the cooperative is and what is around it as I have lived nearby for years. 

I think that as a prospective buyer, who isn't from the area, it is good to know what is near and I think that this is would make a good addition to any house information from LILAC.

LILAC is Award Winning-


What is an Ecovillage?

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people, who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low-impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.

What is Co housing?

Cohousing is a way of living which brings individuals and families together in groups to share common aims and activities while also enjoying their own self-contained accommodation and personal space. The main features are that they are run by their members, committed to living as a community, designed to encourage social contact and include common space. Co-housing balances people's need for privacy with their desire to live in a more community-focussed way.

What is an MHOS (Mutual Home Ownership Scheme)?

Instead of residents owning an individual property, the homes and land are owned by a Mutual Home Ownership Society (MHOS). 
The MHOS is registered as a co-operative controlled by its members. Its members are the residents who live in the homes it provides. Each member or group of members has  lease which gives the right to occupy a specified house or flat owned by the MHOS. 

Members of the MHOS have been involved in the build and design of their homes, and democratically control the housing community in which they live. 

The cost of building the homes owned by the MHOS, has been financed by a mortgage loan from Triodos, the charity bank.

Under the terms of their lease, each member makes monthly payments to the MHOS which pays the interest and capital to the bank, and covers a deduction for management, maintenance, insurance and service costs (such as cleaning, lighting of common parts, and grounds maintenance)

The cost of buying the land and building the homes owned by the MHOS and financed by the mortgage is divided into EQUITY SHARES. Each equity share, which has a face value of £1,000 on the date on which it is issued, is owned by a member and financed by the payments members make each month. 

The number of shares owned by each member depends on what they can afford and the build cost of their home. The more they earn the more equity shares they can afford to finance. 
As their income rises they can buy more equity shares. 
If their income falls, rather than lose their home, they can sell equity shares if there is a willing buyer or, in specified circumstances such as loss of employment or disability, convert to a standard rental tenancy. 
To ensure sustainability of the project the value of the equity shares owned by a household must not differ more then + or – 10% of the build cost. 
If affordable payments (set at around 35% of net income) are above the amount required to finance equity shares of the value of the build cost + 10% the remainder will go into the contingency and future fund called the Lilac Equity Fund. Contributions to the LEF are capped at 1.5% of the total share allocation.

The MHOS is controlled by its members who live in the homes it owns. They elect the Board of Directors which controls the day to day management of the MHOS within the remit set by members in general meeting.
If a member moves out and sell their shares before they have lived in the MHOS for three years they will only be able to sell them at their original value (or a lower value if their value, calculated in accordance with the valuation formula, has fallen). 

For members who leave after three years the value of the equity shares will principally be driven by references to increases (or decreases) in national average eearnings. Exiting members will get the value of their original shares plus interest at 75% of the increase (or decrease) in average income. The MHOS retains the other 25% of the increase (or decrease) to fund the replacement of kitchens, solar panels etc as and when required. 

Like any other person taking on a loan and repayment obligation the MHOS will need to carry out a credit check and personal financial assessment to ensure that potential members are able to repay the mortgage debt servicing obligations they are taking on. The MHOS also requires members to have advice from an independent financial advisor to ensure that they understand the financial obligations and risks they are taking on.

The initial lease is granted for a fixed term of 20 years. This gives members a legal interest in their home and the equity shares they own that can be registered with the Land Registry. Longer leases are not possible as a longer fixed term lease would mean members would be able to buy the home and the land it is built on outright (this is called leasehold enfranchisement). That would mean that it will go into the open market and not be affordable for future generations. This would defeat a key purpose of setting up this MHOS scheme which, as well as giving members an affordable investment in the housing market, is to ensure that the homes in it remain affordable for future generations.

The lease gives members the right to remain in their homes after the initial 20 year term for as long as they want to do so. The right of occupation granted by the lease is legally secure under the terms of the lease contract and cannot be ended other than through a breach of the lease by the member or by a failure of your Mutual Home Ownership Society to meet its obligations to pay its mortgage. Ultimately, if the Mutual Home Ownership Society fails to meet its financial obligations there is a risk that members may lose their home.

The finances of the MHOS are structured to maintain reserves to avoid any risk of repayment default. A financial intermediary, the Co-operative Housing Finance Society Ltd (CHFS), will provide the bank and any other long term investors with a 12 month interest guarantee as security against default. CHFS has been in operation since 1997 and has a track record of monitoring default risk. 

Members can move between properties in the scheme as they become available and as their housing needs change as long as all the equity shares can be financed by incoming members.

Under the terms of the lease members are responsible for all internal and non structural repairs including any heating appliances, kitchens, bathrooms and other services inside your home The MHOS will be responsible for structural repairs and for the maintenance of the exterior of the houses.

Members will need to pay a minimum deposit equal to 10% of the equity shares they can afford to finance through their monthly payments. It is important that members make a positive personal financial commitment to become a part of the MHOS.

It is affordable because: 

• ‘rental’ charges are geared to 35% of net household income 

• members secure a ‘foothold’ on the housing ladder at lower household incomes 

• members can buy more shares as their income rises 

• transaction costs on buying into and leaving are reduced because homes are not bought and sold 

• the linkage - to average earnings - helps reduce risk and retain affordability 

• it remains affordable from one generation of occupants to the next 

It is sustainable because: 

• the housing remains permanently affordable for the benefit of the local community 

• the benefits are recycled from one generation of occupants to the next 

• it is easier to finance environmentally sustainable housing 

• it encourages active citizenship and community engagement on multiple levels

What commitment do I need to give?

We ask all members to be an active participant in our community, joining a task team, participating in shared work days and meetings, and keeping up to date with emails and notices.  

Ethical Policy

The information provided on the ethical policy of the LILAC housing cooperative suggests that they will not accept benefit from any company deemed to be unethical, which links into what I have been researching in my own studies for my dissertation, my case studies where based upon some companies that would be deemed as unfit by LILAC and so it could be said that LILAC have a very ethical/moral stance upon business and money and it suggests that they don't operate under a consumer system that accepts any business. 

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