Towards an agenda for post-carbon cities. Lessons from Lilac, the UK’s first ecological, affordable cohousing community

This paper explores an agenda towards post-carbon cities, extending and deepening established debates around low-carbon, sustainable cities in the process. The paper draws upon a case-study of an embryonic post-carbon initiative due for completion in 2013 called Lilac. Based in Leeds, Lilac stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community and is the first attempt to build an affordable, ecological cohousing project in the UK. Its three aspects each respond to significant challenges: low impact living and the challenge of post-carbon value change; affordability and the challenge of mutualism and equality, and community and the challenge of self-governance. It developed a 20 home scheme based around a central common house and began recruiting members to join the Society. By mid 2012 all the properties were filled and the membership had the following characteristics: 32 adults with 9 children; a wide age range including members over 70 years old and several over 50 years, reflecting the popularity of cohousing with older age groups; a significant group in their 30s who largely represent younger social pioneers and who were establishing families; more women than men, and an identifiable subset of older single women.