Ethical financier Ecology Building Society is providing the mortgage finance at Marmalade Lane, the 42-home collective custom build site being built by Cambridge Cohousing.
The Ecology Building Society has a commitment to supporting projects that have a positive impact on the environment and improve the quality of housing across the UK.
Loans are based on borrowers’ individual circumstances, up to 90% Loan to Value (LTV) for up to 30 years. Sourcing mortgage finance is a significant achievement on any community-led cohousing site, where the unconventional supply model limits the amount of lenders active in the market.
The Society has a sound reputation for backing community-led housing projects, including housing co-operatives, housing associations, community land trusts, as well as cohousing schemes, making it a valuable route to mortgage finance for the cohousing sector.
Jon Lee, Business Development Manager at Ecology Building Society explained: “Given our commitment to supporting sustainable communities, Ecology has always provided lending for both the use of innovative and modern energy-efficient methods of construction, as well as backing community-led approaches, such as cohousing, which enable people to take back control of their housing choices.
“Our experience is that there can be a limited number of lenders who are willing to provide mortgages for properties and projects with such ‘non-standard’ characteristics, including those where the building materials or construction method may not provide the long-term warranties that some lenders require.”
“We encourage community-led housing groups to engage with lenders such as Ecology at an early stage to establish that their proposals will be suitable for us to support,” he said.
As previously written about in Custom Build Strategy, Marmalade Lane uses Swedish building company Trivselhus’ innovative low-energy closed timber panel construction, with offsite construction speeding up the on-site build.
The energy-efficient terraced houses and low-rise apartments, which range from one- to four-bed, are designed around a shared-space street and large communal garden. The development includes a common house with shared facilities including a dining hall, meeting rooms, laundry and play room.
Residents have customised their homes inside and out to meet their needs from a wide range of configuration options.
Marmalade Lane is being built to the equivalent to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 (CSH4) energy efficiency standard and will be eligible for Ecology’s innovative ‘C-Change’ sustainable homes discount which will provide a discount of 0.75% for the lifetime of the mortgage.
Homes feature triple glazing, high levels of insulation and air tightness, with mechanical ventilation and heat recovery creating a comfortable living environment that minimises heat requirements and keeps energy bills low. Renewable energy will also be provided by air-source heat pumps.
Jan Chadwick, a member of the cohousing group said, “We’re really pleased that Ecology Building Society has recognised the environmental credentials of our build and the high quality of the homes built by our developer TOWN. It’s not many lenders that are as forward thinking as Ecology!”
Lee went on to say, “Ecology is keen to support projects that will enable low-impact sustainable lifestyles, such as the Marmalade Lane cohousing development in Cambridge. We offer tailored flexible mortgages that are aligned to the needs of individual borrowers as well as lending on innovative energy-efficient construction types and materials, such as the Trivselhus closed-timber panels.”
Neil Murphy, Director, TOWN welcomed the move from Ecology, saying, “Ecology Building Society is a great supporter of the emerging custom-build and community-led development sectors. Off-site sustainable construction methods, high standards of energy-efficiency and a people-friendly environment are integral to our approach and it’s great to have Ecology’s backing for this project.”
Cohousing developments really reinvent housing, and the more people that are exposed to this innovative approach to supply, the more will start to see that custom build, with a developer in place, is a viable route to homes. While not everyone wants to live in such a strong community, developments such as these show real potential for change. Cohousing really does lead the way with innovation.