So what’s it going to be like, living in ChaCo?
The first thing to get your head round is that this is not just another new housing development.
Maybe you really like the idea of living in a brand new, comfortable, low-energy, affordable home with access to a big garden and lots of extra facilities on site. What’s not to like?
But this is a neighbourhood where you know all your neighbours, and everyone – including you – has made a commitment to keep an eye out for each other and to work together to keep this little community of 33 households functioning well.
It’s not a commune. Everyone has their own private home, and how much you join in with community activities like shared meals is – by and large – up to you.
But you will need to take on your share of the workload, whether it’s organising socials, sorting the finances, keeping an eye on toddlers or harvesting the vegetables. And everyone needs to be part of making the decisions: should we buy an electric car, or let a local group use our common-house kitchen and dining room?
Some of you reading this will probably stop at this point: ‘It sounds awful!’
But if you’re still reading, maybe it’s because you like the idea of a mutually supportive neighbourhood where everyone is valued for who they are and what they bring to the mix. Where everyone has an equal say, and has so much to learn from their neighbours.
It’s called cohousing – and it’s big in places like Denmark, where maybe 8% of households live this way. It’s just starting to take off in the UK, and ChaCo has a lot of support from Lilac – Leeds’ first cohousing project in Bramley, which opened in 2013.