last updated February 2011
What is Lancaster Cohousing?
Lancaster Cohousing Company Ltd is a not-for-profit company that was registered in April 2006 after 6 months of weekly visioning and planning meetings between the Project Development Team (as the core team was called at that time). The team has met on an almost weekly basis since then, with a monthly General Meeting for all members. Decision making at meetings is by consensus. We intend to build a community on ecological values and to be at the cutting edge of sustainable design and living. However we would also like our community to be built on trust, respect, friendship and understanding rather than rules and regulations. We hope that the community will be a supportive environment within which we can all reduce our individual impacts at a level we each choose.
Are there many Cohousing projects?
There are many successful communities in Denmark, the US and Canada. In the UK there are a small number of up and running projects and many more forming groups. Check out our links section. The following short video clip give perspectives of some people who live in cohousing 'Cohousing is one answer (Matthieu, Europe)'.
How many homes will there be?
There will be a total of 41 homes, plus the common house. They range in size from 1 to 3 bedrooms.
What sort of homes will be built?
We have completed the planning and design of the site and homes in conjunction with award winning architects EcoArc, who are one of the UK’s leading practices in carbon neutral design and have considerable knowledge of cohousing. The site is to be car free, and the houses will use cutting edge technology, including super insulation and passive solar gain, so they can be heated by a single radiator. All members have had input into the design through a series of workshops and consensus decision making.
What environmental standards will be used?
We are designing the homes to the PassivHaus standard, which was developed in Germany. We are also aiming for as many of the homes as possible to meet Code for Sustainable Homes Level Six. This will require a renewable energy contribution from the 220kW hydro scheme being developed by our partners Halton Lune Trust. These are high standards, and achieving the target will be hard, but we are committed to making Forge Bank a cutting edge example of sustainable design.
When do you expect people to get their keys?
Probably around June 2012. The About the Project section of the website gives an optimum timescale.
What exactly do we mean by 'car-free'? What about disability access?
There will be no private car ownership, other than for special needs. Vehicles will be restricted to the areas around the Mill and to the north of terraces E and F. The riverside track will be car free beyond the fishing hut except for occasional maintenance/delivery access. We plan to have eleven cars for the shared use of residents and a few extra spaces for use by visitors. Four additional parking spaces will be reserved for people with disabilities. The pedestrian street will be suitable for mobility vehicles. Please see our travel plan for more details.
Are pets allowed?
Yes, but only with prior approval (see our pet policy guidance notes).
Do I have to be a vegetarian/vegan to join?
No, but all communal meals will be vegetarian. There will always be a vegan option and some meals will be entirely vegan (see our food policy).
Do I have to join in with communal meals?
Not at all, though we hope that most will enjoy this opportunity to socialise in an informal manner.
How much will the homes cost?
Prices of all remaining plots are on the Available Homes page.
What shared facilities will be provided?
The private homes will be clustered around the common house, a building we shall all share and which will have a kitchen, childcare areas, guest bedrooms, workshops, a laundry and a large dining room. We also share the ownership of another building – the boat house - which we hope to develop once we have moved in.
Are there annual management fees once the project is up and running?
Yes. There is more information on this under "splitting costs between households" in the Financial Procedures document in the resident's handbook section of the website.
How and when will new members be brought on board?
We take in new members in groups every two or three months and will do so until all the homes are taken. Please see the home page for the latest update. If you join as a full member, you are asked to sign a pre-sale agreement and to put forward 30% of the unit price, as our current member households have already done (see Joining Lancaster Cohousing for further details).
By what time does one need to decide to fully commit to buying a house?
Places are filling quickly. We have completed the site and house designs but not yet detailed design. Anyone wanting to be involved in detailed design should commit asap.
For what reasons would we turn someone down for full membership?
We have not rejected anyone to date. However, we could foresee rejecting an application from someone who was purely trying to make money out of the project, may have a disruptive influence on the project, or did not appear to share the vision.
Are we only going ahead with the project if we achieve full membership?
We are already going ahead, planning permission has now been granted, and enough interest has been generated to complete the project.
Could one invest a deposit now and move in, for example, in four years time?
You would need to pay the 30% deposit and buy the house at the same time as everyone else. However, you could then rent the house (see associate member policy) for a few years before moving in. The group is likely to want to ensure that the majority of members are not intending to do this.
Has any thought been put into making the scheme accessible for people without capital assets? For instance, would cash-rich individuals be willing to club together to purchase a unit for renting out?
We have discussed this possibility at length, and we are sympathetic. If people came forward with money offering to buy a house to rent out we would consider it. We have to get the balance right in terms of tenant and owner participation in community decisions.
Can one become a member and not buy a house? Can one support the project through investment?
We would welcome offers from those who wish to lend money to the project if this is required to assist cash flow.
Do we foresee people buying houses and not living there? Will we allow rentals?
We expect people who buy houses to want to live in the community. However, we recognise that people may want or need to live elsewhere for periods of time, and our associate member policy allows for this. We will allow rentals, but there will be a cap of 20% on the number of buy to let properties. Temporary rentals will be counted within this number, but if this number is exceeded and a member wishes to temporarily rent out their house, then they can.
Do we have a policy on rent levels or is it up to the individual?
Usually it's up to the individual. See the associate member policy in the resident's handbook for more detail.
What constraints are there on selling-on?
These are set out in the Financial Procedures document. They are basically safeguards, and we expect most, if not all, homes that are sold to change hands without the intervention of the community.
How did you manage to get enough people to commit to the project at an early stage?
Early joiners were offered a discount on the target price of their home in return for their firm commitment. Also, members get to chose their plot (within their house type) in the order in which they joined.
What sort of people are members?
All sorts of people of all ages are members. There are families with young children, families with older children, couples and single persons. Members' jobs include accountant, solicitor, teacher, IT consultant, nurse, local councillor and engineer. There are also mature students, retired persons and those taking a break from work to look after their children.
Would we consider doing two projects if we got too many people?
Not at the moment!