It’s been a long time coming, but this week it was finally announced that a new LGBT housing project for seniors will break ground in the Gayborhood. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the six-story, 58-bedroom facility will house low-income seniors aged 62 and older.
The $19 million project (with $8 million in public funding) was spearheaded by Mark Segal and developed by dmhFund and Pennrose Properties thanks, in part, to $11 million in tax credit financing from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). The project is already being touted as an innovation in low-income housing for LGBT seniors – and one of the first in the country.
“For years, developing a unique facility in the heart of Philadelphia’s Gayborhood where our most vulnerable LGBT elders could live out their golden years was our pie-in-the-sky idea,” dmhFund President Mark Segal says in a press statement. “But today, we can say for certain, that pie-in-the-sky idea will become a reality.”
Equal housing laws and regulations, however, ensure that the new facility will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It cannot be exclusively LGBT, though the services will be designed with the community in mind, says Segal. A previous proposal would have built the residences at the William Way LGBT Community Center, but the new location on 13th Street (between Locust and Spruce) will include 2,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The building will also house a community center, garden and social services and medical care facilities.
A range of advocates, including Philadelphia’s Democratic and Republican elected officials, the local LGBT community, the region’s senior citizen organizations, labor unions and community groups – including the NAACP – worked to make the housing project a reality.
It comes as a time when HUD has encouraged equal access to housing for LGBT Americans by redefining the notion of “family” for those who may be eligible for HUD-funded programs around the country. In January, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a new rule that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And last month, the ruling was published in the Federal Register.
HUD is also currently conducting a first-ever national study about discrimination against members of the LGBT community in regards to housing, an issue that is becoming more important as out members of the community age and face prospects of discrimination in other facilities that may have religious affiliations.
There have been many studies that indicate a strong need for affordable housing for the elder LGBT population. A recent Williams Institute study found significantly higher rates of poverty for gay men and lesbians over age 65. This new housing project will provide for seniors who earn less than the 60 percent median income in Philadelphia.
The residences are expected to be ready for occupancy by late next year.