Published 27/3/17  3:38pmby Bill

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More powerful together

Leeds for Change is all about changing the world from Leeds outwards. Working together, the 100+ groups who have signed up so far have real potential to make huge changes. I’ve been part of Chapeltown Cohousing (ChaCo) from its inception, and Leeds for Change has played a vital role in linking us up with others and helping us communicate what we’re doing.

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Seven years ago

ChaCo started when a handful of Chapeltown residents began to get excited about the idea of a community-led housing project in the area. We were inspired by the way that Lilac’s plans seemed to be coming together over in Bramley. Since then we’ve had tremendous support and encouragement from Lilac, Leeds Community Homes and many other groups and individuals connected with Leeds for Change.

In most cohousing projects, members buy their private homes and put in additional capital to fund common facilities like a laundry, workshop, guest rooms and large kitchen/dining area. That’s not a model that works in a high-deprivation area like Chapeltown, where capital is thin on the ground and we’re keen to reflect the diversity of the area.

Big money

So how on earth do we finance a £4.5m development when few of our members have houses to sell? The answer involves £360,000 from the Homes and Communities Agency to support first-time buyers on our shared ownership scheme, plus individual 95% mortgages from the Ecology Building Society. But crucially, it also relies on investment from individuals and organisations who believe in our vision of an affordable housing community designed and run by its residents.

These short-term loans not only help us to get the common facilities built, they also enable us to provide a number of fully rented units (below the Local Housing Allowance level) to ensure that ChaCo is within the financial reach of as many as possible. Once the houses are built, we then have assets we know we can borrow against in order to repay the development loans.

Plenty of people who want to help

The lesson for Leeds for Change participants is that there’s no shortage of people who are prepared to invest in social change, provided we present viable projects for them to support and build on the expertise that already exists in the activist community around Leeds.

The day before we launched our investment drive for £600,000 of short-term loans, our allies in Leeds Community Homes launched their own community share offer seeking £360,000 to build 16 affordable eco homes in the massive new South Bank scheme. Despite the awkward timing, LCH achieved their target on time, while we are well on course with ours.

The ticking clock

As I write this, we have less than five days to reach the £600,000 we need – but we’ve already raised most of that: £489k, the last time I looked.

So, if you have big dreams, look for others who share them and get working. Leeds for Change would love to be part of linking you up with people who can help you make the world a better place.

And, of course, you might be able to help ChaCo make a difference by getting us over the finishing line. If you know anyone who might be able to invest £1,000 or more for at least three years, put them in touch asap. Loans of £20,000 or more attract 4% interest – but hurry: the offer closes at midnight on 31 March 2017.

Thanks!

Bill Phelps
Chapeltown Cohousing
07474 873791

Full details can be found on our website at http://www.chapeltowncohousing.org.uk

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