By KATHY MATHESON. Associated Press
Construction is to start this fall on one of the country’s only affordable housing complexes aimed at elderly gay people after developers received what they described as critical state tax credits for the long-stalled project.
The 56-unit, $19 million development is planned for a section of Philadelphia affectionately known as the Gayborhood. The project had been stymied for years by financing and logistical problems, but received tax credits this week from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Such challenges only seemed to build interest in the badly needed facility, said Mark Segal, director of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which has spearheaded the plans and fundraising. It was developers’ second attempt at securing the credits.
“If anything, it made people more supportive of the project,” said Segal, who also publishes the Philadelphia Gay News. “I have never seen this community so united behind a project.”
Experts say such housing is needed because many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors fear discrimination or disrespect by health care workers and elder housing residents. Some go back into being secretive about their sexual orientation after years of being open.
At least 1.5 million elderly gay people live in the U.S., a number expected to double by 2030, according to the New York-based group Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders.
“Welcoming and affordable housing is one of the most important needs of LGBT elders,” SAGE executive director Michael Adams wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, this housing is in very scarce supply.”
Anti-discrimination laws prohibit gay-only housing, but projects can be made GLBT-friendly through marketing and location. Private gay-friendly retirement communities exist but are usually only affordable for the most affluent seniors.
In Philadelphia, most of the one-bedroom units will rent for between $615 and $775 per month, said Jacob Fisher, a senior developer at Pennrose Properties, which will build and manage the facility.
With $8 million in funding on hand, Fisher said, the remaining $11 million in financing for the project will come from selling the tax credits to a private investor who has not yet been determined.
Segal said he doesn’t anticipate any problem finding an investor. He expects the first residents to move in about 15 months after construction begins.
An official announcement of the October groundbreaking is planned for Monday evening, Segal said.
The nation’s first gay-friendly affordable senior housing facility opened in Los Angeles in 2007. Projects in Chicago and San Francisco are also on the drawing board.