Housing for older queers is lagging. New York just stepped up

Housing for older queers is lagging. New York just stepped up
A rendering for Mary's House for Older Adults in Washington, DC Photo: Provided

In her first State of the State address, New York Governor Kathy Hochul made history with a commitment to direct state resources to help fund housing for older New Yorkers.

Hochul directed New York State’s Homes and Community Renewal agency (HCR) to provide funding specifically for affordable housing projects that are affirming for New Yorkers among the state’s 800,000+ older LGBTQ+ population.

Only two housing developments in New York serve the community: Stonewall House in Brooklyn and Crotona Pride House in the Bronx. Those projects were developed and funded by SAGE, the LGBTQ+ elders advocacy group, along with BFC Partners and HELP USA.

The two developments are models for reducing housing insecurity and providing community support, dramatically improving the lives of low-to-moderate income and formerly unhoused older New Yorkers.   

The commitment by Hochul follows policy recommendations presented by SAGE and AARP in their 2021 report “Disrupting Disparities: Solutions for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers 50+.” The report illustrated that many older New Yorkers face structural disparities, including social isolation, higher rates of poverty, and challenges finding and affording housing.

Older people face rampant discrimination when seeking a place to live: 34% of LGBTQ older people and 54% of transgender and gender nonconforming elders fear having to deny their identity to land adequate housing. A ten-state study from the Equal Rights Center found 48% of same-sex couples experienced overt discrimination in the housing application process compared to their different-sex partnered peers.

While the demand for affirming housing is high — 90% of older LGBTQ+ Americans are extremely, very, or somewhat interested in obtaining it — supply is low: only 13 states and Washington, DC, have housing developments targeting older LGBTQ+ Americans. 

By 2030, over 70 million people will be age 65+, with about 7 million of those part of the community. That subset already faces a higher poverty and homelessness rate even before housing insecurity is factored in.

Officials at SAGE see this as a good start.

“I am thrilled that Governor Hochul and her administration are committed to expanding equitable access to housing for New York’s LGBTQ+ elders,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “LGBTQ+ elders of color, transgender and non-binary elders face the highest levels of financial insecurity, and we know first-hand that LGBTQ+ friendly elder housing is vital in improving their lives.”

“The communities created at Stonewall House and Crotona Pride House,” added Adams, “are proof that this kind of housing improves the quality of life of residents. With the critical support of the Governor, New York will be providing crucial resources to elders so they can age with the dignity and support they deserve.”  

Among the affirming housing options across the U.S. are The John C. Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia, Town Square Apartments in Chicago, and Triangle Square in Los Angeles.

In Washington, a new communal residence called Mary’s House for Older Adults is scheduled to break ground in March, while a new project in Detroit, Raymond E. Shepherd House, just received some creative financing in the form of a brownfield grant from the Michigan Department of Environment.

And in California, a new complex in Sacramento is the latest addition to the state’s affirming housing projects. Lavender House, with 53 units in the midtown neighborhood of the state capital, was developed and is operated by the nonprofit Mutual Housing California. There were over 600 requests for applications, with tenants chosen by lottery. 

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