Lilac – Low Impact Living Affordable Community
Lilac is a environmentally-friendly housing co-op with an innovative funding model.
Lilac, an affordable co-housing scheme in Kirkstall, a suburb of Leeds, is home to 35 adults and 13 children, living in 20 properties ranging from one bedroom flats to four bedroom houses. Together, they are working to provide secure and affordable housing for current and future members with as low an impact on the environment as possible. The properties, made from straw and timber from a system called Modcell, were designed and partly built by members, and completed in 2013.
Lilac is a mutual home ownership society, which means members contribute financially according to their income levels. The members buy equity in their homes that they can take with them when they leave. The value of their equity is linked to the wages rather than property values, ensuring that homes remain affordable for subsequent members.
“We’re using this model to change our broken housing system, to make it fairer and avoid huge hikes in house prices,” said Celia Ashman, who joined Lilac as a member in 2013.“We want to own and run our housing as a cooperative, which gives members a greater sense of security – which is so important in these volatile times.”
Lilac is the first operational mutual home ownership society in the UK and members are pioneering a model proposed by the New Economics Foundation in 2003.“Realising that we’re not just a standard co-op and what we’re doing is experimental keeps us all going,” said Celia.
Lilac continues to innovate. It has a community agreement on Covid-19 which allows members to socially distance and share communal areas safely, look after each other and help more vulnerable members with shopping and household tasks. Lilac is also developing a Climate Emergency Strategy so it can work towards putting climate justice into action and be zero carbon by the 2030s.
New rules needed
Policies that can help unleash the potential of this or similar initiatives across the UK.
Create a Land Development Corporation
A corporation with the power to purchase, develop and sell land can ensure it is managed in the public interest.
Finance a Green New Deal
Government-led investment is vital – here are five ways to pay.
Create a Common Ground Trust
Buying land from underneath houses and leasing it to members will expand the number of people ready to buy a house.
Introduce a Sustainable Economy Act
Climate change laws should be extended to set binding targets to protect all aspects of our environment.
Replace GDP with better measures of national success
Better headline indicators – that reflect the things we really want – are essential for better policymaking.
Introduce an NHS land community-lock
Any land asset sold by the NHS through choice, necessity or obligation should be used for community benefit.
Close the viability loophole
Stop private developers from evading affordable housing requirements.
Reform compulsory purchase laws
Changes would mean that public authorities, rather than landowners, would capture the uplift in land value.
Insulate and solarise our homes
UK homes are some of the most expensive to heat in Europe. We can reduce emissions and fuel poverty.
Create devolved ‘just transition’ funds
Government should devolve a proportion of its Green New Deal budget to support local just transition plans.