Ethical and community led housing is under starters orders in Leeds with a chance to invest in it plus shared ownership flats for sale at the Climate Innovation District
Bureaucracy, funding and land availability are all huge obstacles and ridiculously time consuming, with no guarantee of a positive outcome.
Many who try to create community co-operatives and co-housing schemes give up when the above all becomes too much and the realisation hits that they could be looking at years before they even get a spade in theground.
However, for those with the stamina to keep going, the end result is hugely rewarding and results in affordable, energy-efficient homes to rent and buy in developments designed to encourage community spirit. LILAC, short for Low Impact Living Affordable Community, in Bramley, Leeds, is a prime example.
This co-housing scheme took 10 years from inception to thefirst people moving on to the site but it is now seen as an exemplar.
It opened in 2013 and fundingfor the £2.7m development of 12 apartments and eight houses came from members’ investments, a £400,000 government grant and a mortgage.
LILAC works on a system of mutual home ownership and a share-based scheme.
It is a hybrid of renting and buying. Residents put down a deposit of 10 per cent of the property’s value and then pay 35 per cent of their income each month.
This buys them shares, which they can redeem when they leave, which means they have a cash investment that allows them to move on.
Paul Chatterton, Professor of Urban Futures at the University of Leeds, who co-founded LILAC and lives there, went on to to help form Leeds Community Homes in 2015 with LILAC’s project manager Jimm Reed and others.
It is aimed at creating affordable homes for those who need them most, both with affordable rents and by supporting people to buy their own homes.
The ambition was to create 1,000 new affordable homes within 10 years by buying and building properties.
“It’s taking longer than we thought,” says Jimm, now development director for LCH, who is not surprised at the time lag. It was, after all, inevitable.
The good news is that LCH will soon take possession of 16 properties built by eco-friendly developer CITU in its award-winning Climate Innovation District development in Leeds.
CITU wanted to use its section 106 agreement, which ensures there is a community benefit when passing plans for development, to help an organisation that allies with its principles.
The properties, part funded by a community share offer, will be available from LCH for affordable rent and shared ownership.
The latest venture for Leeds Community Homes is also under way and it’s in Armley and came about after residents there asked for help.
While there are private rental properties, rents are high and the quality of many of the properties is poor, especially in terms of energy efficiency because it is old terrace housing stock.
Meanwhile a tract of council owned land in Mistress Lane that had lain fallow for over 20 years had become the focus of anti-social behaviour.
Putting two and two together, a plan was formed and the council was happy to go along with the idea of selling the land to LCH to create 34 affordable rental homes across three blocks, providing those on the council housing waiting list can apply to live there.
So now a quality, energy-efficient, people-centred development of rental homes is set to be constructed and managed by LCH, though members of the Mistress Lane community group of residents will decide what to do with the remaining green space.
“It won’t be private gardens but it could be allotments, recreation space, a play area or a quiet space, whatever the community decides. “The idea is that it gets people to interact with their neighbours,” says Jimm.
Fundraising is under way to finance the flagship project that has also meant some shape-shifting to qualify for the benefits that not-for-profit housing associations attract so LCH is now also a housing association.
“We aim to create a community rather than creating a load of homes and then walking away,” says Jimm.
To fund the build, LCH has launched a community share offer. This offers a safe and ethical way to invest money and the investments provide an annual interest of up to five per cent.
Leeds Community Homes have shared ownership properties constructed by CITU available to buy at Climate Innovation District in Leeds now. For details and to check if you are eligible to buy visit www.leedscommunityhomes.org.uk/climate-innovation-district/