How can permaculture successfully challenge the housing affordability crisis in the UK whilst at the same time providing opportunities to build sustainable and regenerative communities? In our latest Permaculture Story, Joe Atkinson describes the ethos and practicalities of LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordable Community), a member-led housing co-operative which uses permaculture design thinking and an innovative financing model called a Mutual Home Ownership Society.
LILAC homes are made from timber, strawbale and lime. They have very high insulation and air-tightness levels, and are ventilated mechnically with heat recovery. There is edible landscaping throughout the site and a small allotment plot for each home. There is 0.5 car parking space per household to encourage car-sharing and the use of sustainable transport; cars are kept at the periphery of the site; the pedestrianised courtyards promote casual social interaction between members.
LILAC makes ownership of high-quality, ecologically responsible housing accessable to those on relatively modest incomes. As a cohousing scheme, it promotes community and there are numerous shared facilities such as the Common House, laundry, workshop and extensive communal gardens. Regular social events, communal meals and other activities all help to build social glue in this diverse, multigenerational community.
While LILAC was not conceived explicitly as a permaculture project, it is consistent with the permaculture ethics:
- Earth care: extensive use of renewable materials; super insulation; renewable energy; on-site food production and edible landscaping; pooling of resources like cars, washing machines, tools etc.
- People care: Cohousing model promotes community, reducing likelihood of isolation, loneliness and associated mental health issues. Also, as LILAC is a community-led development, members have a greater degree of self-determination
- Set limits to consumption & redistribute surplus: The building fabric & renewable energy technologies limit the consumption of fossil energy for space & water heating and power. Limited car parking limits the use of private cars. Surplus is redistributed through the innovative financing model; high earners can take an equity stake up to 110% of the value of their home. This makes other homes in the scheme more affordable for others. In some circumstances, high earners also pay a proportion of their income into a communal equity fund that supports the whole project.
“We provide a living, breathing and hopefully inspiring model of how living in the future can be possible, and how we can do it now…” – Joe Atkinson, Low Impact Living Affordable Community, Leeds
Lots more permaculture resources and information on LILAC, green building and working with communities can be found at Joe’s website here