Lord Mayor “intrigued” as pioneering cohousing scheme gets underway in Leeds

The Lord Mayor of Leeds has laid the first stone on what is said to be a pioneering housing development that will lay the foundations of a new co-housing community in Chapeltown.

More than 60 new homes are to be provided at the £9.3 million Leopold Park scheme, which is a combined venture between BME-led housing association Unity Homes & Enterprise and Chapeltown Cohousing (ChaCo).

Unity will build 30 one- and two-bed flats for people over 55. ChaCo will construct 29 houses and flats, a ‘common house’, and provide space for four self-build units.

The site was owned by Leeds City Council after previously being occupied by a social services office, which became vacant prior to demolition. The development is due for completion by March 2021.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Eileen Taylor said she was “intrigued” by ChaCo’s role in delivering the area’s first cohousing scheme.

“It is a wonderful and fascinating concept,” she added. “We live in challenging times. I am all for new ideas which bring people together. ChaCo deserves great credit for their foresight and I look forward to seeing the final results.”

There are currently 19 cohousing communities in the country – including one in Bramley, near Leeds – having first appeared in the late 1990s. According to UK Cohousing, more than 60 cohousing groups are developing new projects with others in the pipeline.

Leopold Park
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Eileen Taylor, lays the first stone at the Leopold Park development alongside project partners and ChaCo stakeholders

Cohousing is a means of bringing individuals and families together in groups to share common aims and activities whilst enjoying their own self-contained accommodation.

As well as their own private homes, everyone has the use of shared facilities in the ‘common house’ which includes washing machines, guest rooms for visiting relatives and a large kitchen and dining room where everyone can eat.

Bill Phelps, ChaCo chair, said he was thrilled that construction work was getting underway.

“The seeds for ChaCo’s emergence were sown in 2010 when members of a small housing co-op invited friends living nearby to explore the idea of setting up a local cohousing scheme.

“Since then, we have been supported by many other Chapeltown residents who want to create a neighbourhood where co-operation and sharing are built in from the start. It is remarkable that we have now reached the development stage and, in less than two years, people will be living in their new homes.

“We are delighted to be able to demonstrate that community-led housing schemes are not restricted to wealthy parts of the country. They can be a viable proposition wherever residents come together to enhance their own neighbourhoods. It has been an extremely positive experience working alongside all the partners helping to make this project a reality – particularly Unity, whose expertise, cooperation and encouragement have made all the difference.”

Homes England, the Government’s housing agency, has allocated £1.4 million in grant support for the scheme as well as £1.34 million through its Housing Infrastructure Fund.

The remaining monies have been secured by a combination of private finance and savings from ChaCo stakeholders who will live in the properties once they are built.

According to Ali Akbor – Unity’s chief executive – the 30 one- and two-bedroom flats the housing association is building represent one of its most significant investments in recent times.

“It is always fulfilling to see new properties come out of the ground after several years of planning,” he said. “Our joint work with ChaCo has made this scheme all the more interesting and, in common with everyone who has helped us get to this point, I am full of positive expectation for what lies ahead.

“Unity is rightly focussed on providing high quality affordable homes. But we are also driven by a desire to regenerate communities, create life opportunities and address inequalities within sustainable neighbourhoods. This scheme ticks all of those boxes and underscores that we are doing our job well.

“As an organisation which emanated from the Leeds BME community more than three decades ago, it is hugely appropriate that Councillor Taylor is laying the first stone as the city’s first black Lord Mayor.”

Lord Mayor, Councillor Taylor added: “I have followed the progress of this revolutionary initiative very closely. Unity has a long-standing reputation for providing first-class affordable homes for people across the city. Based in Chapeltown, they know the area and the needs of local residents incredibly well. They do an excellent job.”


Main Image: The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Eileen Taylor, lays the first stone at the Leopold Park development, assisted by Unity chief executive Ali Akbor


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