Taking on the world, one community at a time
LILAC is a story of how communities can take back control and create a better way of living. One which creates a sense of togetherness, is cheaper and kinder on the environment.
LILAC stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community.
Situated in Bramley, Leeds, are 20 eco-homes that were created by a group of ordinary people who believe they can play a role in tackling some of society's most serious problems.
A new blueprint for living
Financial crisis. Riots. Global warming. The founding members of LILAC felt that the world was in turmoil and they weren't prepared to be witnesses to the deterioration any longer. They started to think of ways that everyday people could heal and repair the world and the systems in it from the bottom up.
They came to focus on these three themes:
- building community wealth through strong local economies
- tackling climate change through behavioural changes
- designing spaces intentionally to unite communities and create a sense of belonging.
Boiled down this could be represented by three values:
- Low impact living
The group were very clear that this wasn't just a crusade for themselves, they wanted their idea to become a blueprint for others to use, adapt and develop.
Making the dream a reality
Formed in 2006, group members realised very quickly on the need to build a professional reputation in order to be taken seriously with more conventional power-players and decision makers.
After deciding on their values, the group became a legal entity, in this case a co-operative society. They pooled their networks, got help from friends, and friends of friends to develop plans and designs. They talked to anyone and everyone that would listen about their idea to find ways to make it work. They intrigued people, they excited them, they got them on side.
So, just what was the idea?
Building clever homes
We humans are difficult. Yes, we know we should take shorter showers, recycle more, drive less but our ability to change our habits and stick to them frankly can't be relied upon.
That's why the clever people at LILAC decided to build clever homes and spaces that are environmentally friendly all on their own, and even better help residents to make environmentally friendly choices without even realising it.
Here are just some of the elements and features that make the LILAC homes special:
- They were built using prefabricated panels made of natural and energy efficient materials (straw bales).
- They are air-tight and have south=facing windows to capture heat from the sun.
- The site was designed with a purposely small carpark on the edge of the development to encourage car sharing.
Reducing their economic footprint too
As we've already pointed out, affordability is a vital component of the LILAC model. Being a cohousing development has helped residents to create a system based on sharing. The families share meals twice-a-week in the common house, none of the homes have a washing machine - instead there's a laundry for everyone to use. Power drills, lawn mowers, it's the same deal and residents will just head to the communal workshop.
The innovation doesn't end there
LILAC is the first fully mutual home ownership society. It's a mutual form of tenure where an individual owns equity as part of a co-op. The members (residents) each own a stake in the development, not the home itself. It's been designed to decommodify housing.
At LILAC everyone pays 35% of their net income to the co-operative society (which they are members of), which then pays the corporate mortgage to the bank. You can read more about fully mutual home ownership in our resources section.
LILAC hold regular learning events where you can find out more about their approach to living. Visit their website for more information.