Chapeltown Cohousing: Strength in Diversity

“It might not be everyone’s idea of paradise, but we’re very fond of Chapeltown. This is where we belong and we want to see it flourishing.” That’s the word on the street at Chapeltown Cohousing (ChaCo) – a community-led housing project in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Formed in 2010 following some impassioned conversations between neighbours, Chapeltown Cohousing is based in Leeds’ Chapeltown/Harehills area. Statistically, the neighbourhood is one of the most disadvantaged in the country, with the Indices of Deprivation (2019) showing it to be within the top 5% most deprived postcodes in England. What the statistics don’t show is the abundance of diverse and vibrant culture that characterises the neighbourhood. It’s this that has given rise to the unique vision behind ChaCo.

In September 2017, ChaCo secured planning permission to build 29 dwellings and a ‘common house’ containing guest rooms, a laundry, a kitchen and a large dining area on a half-hectare brownfield plot acquired from Leeds City Council. Eight of the properties will be available as rental homes and 21 as shared ownership properties where residents can own from 25% to 99% with the balance paid as rent to the cooperative.

A fully mutual housing co-operative, ChaCo has been funded through a mixture of shared ownership sales, loanstock from supporters, grant funding from Homes England and development finance provided by Ecology and Leeds City Council.

Sustainability is a top priority for the ChaCo community. All of the homes will be low-energy, built to the AECB standard, typically giving a 70% reduction in carbon emissions compared with most other equivalent sized homes. All of the south-facing roofs will carry solar panels, and shared facilities – including outdoor food growing areas, communal washing machines and a bike repair workshop – will enable all members to access these amenities while reducing resource use and freeing-up space in residents’ own homes.

Reflecting on the significance of the project for the local area, prospective resident, Maureen Jones, explains,

“I’ve spent most of my life here in Chapeltown and I love this place. It’s been home for my grandmother, mother, me, my children and grandchildren. Cohousing is going to be a great way to keep communication alive across the generations to the benefit of all of us, young and old.”

While co-founder, Bill Phelps, adds, “Like all ambitious projects, we’ve faced – and continue to face – many challenges, but we’re confident that with the support of our partners, ChaCo will be welcoming its first residents in the not-too-distant future. We’d never have got off the ground without Ecology behind us. With their wealth of experience in lending for community-led housing, they’ve become a trusted partner and wholehearted supporter of our vision.”

Find out more about Ecology’s community-led housing mortgages.