updated February 2011, minor revisions February 2014
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. Meetings continued on an almost weekly basis during the build phase. At the ongoing monthly General Meetings, for all members, decision making is by consensus. The community is built on ecological values and aspires to be at the cutting edge of sustainable design and living — it is a work in progress. 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 pace and to 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 are there?
There are a total of 41 homes, plus the Common House. They range in size from one to three bedrooms.
What sort of homes do we have?
The planning and design of the site and homes was done 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. We have a car free home street, and the houses use cutting edge technology, including super insulation and passive solar gain, so they can be heated by a single radiator. Members have had input into the design through a series of workshops and consensus decision making.
What environmental standards were used?
The homes are designed to the PassivHaus standard, which was developed in Germany. They have also been designed to meet the UK's Code for Sustainable Homes Level Six. Achievement of CSH Level Six assumes a renewable energy contribution from the 220kW hydro scheme currently being developed by our partners Halton Lune Trust. These are high standards, and achieving the target is hard, but we are committed to making Forge Bank a cutting edge example of sustainable design.
What exactly do we mean by 'car-free'? What about disability access?
We aim for shared car ownership except in cases of special need. We are close to our target of eleven shared cars; in addition there are a few extra spaces for use by visitors. Vehicles are restricted to Mill Lane, the areas around the Mill, and the parking spaces to the west of Terrace A and the north of Terrace E. The riverside track is car free beyond the fishing hut except for occasional maintenance/delivery access. The pedestrian street is 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 most communal meals are 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.
What shared facilities are provided?
The private homes are clustered around the Common House, a building we all share and which will has 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.
Are there annual management fees?
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?
See the pages on how to join.
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.
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.
Do people buy houses and not live here? Do 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.