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New York Developers Inspire London's First LGBT+ Retirement Community, And A UK Wide Rollout Will Follow

The Bankhouse scheme, Vauxhall

London is about to get its first LGBT+ retirement community, inspired by developments in Manhattan and the Bronx.

The operator said it is the first of many it plans to roll out in UK cities.

A £5.7M grant from the Greater London Assembly’s housing fund allows Tonic Housing, a social housing provider, to buy 19 homes in a mainstream older persons housing scheme at Vauxhall. Sales of one- and two-bed homes are due to begin in late spring this year, with residents expected to move in from mid-summer.

Despite several proposals in London, Manchester and Brighton, there are understood to be no LGBT+ affirming housing provision schemes with elderly care currently in operation in the UK.

Tonic now plan to expand provision throughout the UK.

“We intend this to be the first of many Tonic retirement communities, achieved by working in partnership in London and other cities," Tonic Housing Chief Executive Anna Kear said. "These first homes, that are already built and currently empty, will enable people who need and want this accommodation to have the benefit of it immediately.

“We intend that future Tonic schemes will provide a range of tenures directly, created through further acquisitions or new developments.”

Progress on creating LGBT senior housing has been achingly slow: Serious proposals surfaced decades ago. It is only since 2015 that plans have begun to show signs of being deliverable.

Regional expansion will build on real, but fragile, work in some cities. Proposals for a Manchester scheme were unveiled in 2018. Work on shaping the project is still proceeding.

There is also a sheltered housing scheme in Brighton, owned by Anchor Hanover, that has piloted LGBT+ inclusion.


Tonic has worked very closely with schemes in the U.S. to develop its product. 

The development has been inspired by LGBT+ elders housing schemes and social centres across the U.S. from Chicago to San Francisco, Los Angeles to Minneapolis, and San Diego to Washington, D.C.

Lessons from SAGE, the New York organisation for older LGBT adults, showed the importance of homes next to, or above, LGBT+ social centres, and that the aim is to produce “LGBT+ affirming” housing rather than exclusive space.

What is reputed to be the world's largest LGBT seniors scheme, comprising 145 apartments, is the soon-to-be-completed Ingersoll Senior Residences in Brooklyn.

At Ingersoll Senior Residences the service provider is usually the LGBT+ organisation, while the property owner and manager is often a not for profit partner organisation. 

Most U.S. schemes have taken around 10 years to develop. 

Research from the UK's LGBT Foundation indicates higher levels of loneliness and isolation amongst LGBT older people and a lack of affordable accommodation where they can be open about their identity later in life.

Many older LGBT people are effectively forced back into the closet in later life in retirement homes that assume residents have straight life histories and expectations. Experience on the other side of the Atlantic has long supported similar conclusions, as Bisnow reported.