Try as he might, the Big Bad Wolf will not be able to blow down the 20 straw houses that make up the Low Impact Living Affordable Community (LILAC) in the northern English city of Leeds. The houses, made using straw bale construction and timber, are the first low carbon, green affordable co-housing community in the UK.
Lilac Grove, as the residents have named the neighborhood consists of 20 houses and a communal space that contains a shared kitchen, laundry facilities and offices. The land surrounding the houses is car-free and there is storage for 50 bikes – plus you can invest in a home without breaking the bank. Rather than purchasing a house, residents put 35% of their income into a trust. That means people with income as low as £15,000 (approx. $ 22,750) can afford a home. Should they choose to leave before three years, they get their initial investment back, if they stay longer their return is higher based on average salaries in the area.
Using locally-sourced straw, the houses are cheaper to build and have an excellent source of insulation. Communal living spaces and a communal garden lower the total carbon footprint of the residents, with the community aiming to be completely carbon neutral. The commitment to low impact living bonds the co-op together. Paul Chatterton, one of the founding members of the project told the BBC:
The neighbourliness [sic] has been unbelievable. It’s not even on a level you can compare anything to. The kids are just flourishing. One person said “how could we ever not live like this?” It feels very different but at the same time it feels very natural.