LILAC – Low Impact Living Affordable Community

LILAC owns and runs housing as a cooperative, giving its members a greater sense of security about their homes.

Est. number of people
who benefit directly

LILAC's story

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.

LILAC's story has been reproduced with kind permission from Change The Rules. Visit to discover inspiring new economy projects across the UK.

Image: CC Stock Photo

What have you learnt that others will find most useful?

  • There is a huge ongoing workload. It’s been three years and the honeymoon period is over and there’s a lot of work to do.
  • Although the development phase for the build is complete, we’re still in the develop phase for our legal and financial model, in terms of how to enact a theoretical model in real life. For example, we’ve had lots of membership changes in the first three years, including six new people joining and four moving out. Each time that happens the whole house transfer process is internal. We have to find a new member to fill that spot, which is quite time consuming. There’s no simple one page of instructions, it’s all time consuming. Each time it’s the first time that exact thing is happening.
  • Being a mutual home ownership society rather than a standard rental co-op makes the process for replacing a member more complicated. When a member leaves a rental co-op you can just give a certain amount of notice, but when someone leaves Lilac it’s like leaving a house and they get paid the equity they put in, so we have to find that money. An incoming person probably won’t have savings that match what we need to pay out. The model can cope with that, and so far it has proven very flexible, but every scenario is different and it can take time behind the scenes to make sure everything adds up correctly.

Measures of success?

A detailed project development plan is available via Lilac's website here: This outlines the targets and measurements taken during the build process and going forwards.

Read more:

Share this initiative