LILAC – Low Impact Living Affordable Community

Community • Leeds

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

  • LILAC's common house.
  • LILAC's co-housing gardens.
  • LILAC co-housing members.

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 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.

Photo credit: Andy Lord

Useful Learnings from LILAC

Although the development phase for the build is complete, LILAC is still in the development phase for their legal and financial model in terms of how to enact a theoretical model in real life. For example, when membership changes the entire house transfer process is internal: LILAC has to find a new member to fill that spot. This can be time-consuming as there are no set instructions to follow.

Being a mutual home ownership society rather than a standard rental co-op makes the process of 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 is similar to leaving a house and they get paid the equity they put in. LILAC has to find this equity. An incoming person may not have the savings that match what is needed to pay out. The model can cope and is proving to be very flexible, but every scenario is different and it can take time behind the scenes to make sure everything adds up.

LILAC's Metrics

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.

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Response to climate crisis





Community, 10 to 49 people

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Updated Feb, 2024

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