GLBT housing now a reality in Long Island and Chicago

Last week, the Long Island GLBT Network (The Network) announced a new Bay Shore housing development marketed directly to and for members of the GLBT senior community.  While the Fair Housing Act mandates that the units be available to everyone (and they will be), publicity materials will emphasize the inclusive nature of the community, and extra efforts will be made to target GLBT markets. The proposed 50-unit apartment, built next to a new community center for The Network, will be the first GLBT-focused complex in the New York area.

The units will be affordable and, according to the development’s official announcement, will provide needed shelter for the local GLBT community. The announcement claims that close to 50 percent of GLBT elderly report experiencing discrimination when seeking housing with a significant other.  A study published in 2013 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) confirms that gay and lesbian couples are significantly less likely than heterosexual couples to receive a reply to a landlord, when inquiring about an available apartment.  The Bay Shore development will eliminate these obstacles.

Chicago, too, is on the forefront of the movement to create inclusive housing. The Town Hall apartments opened at the end of August as a joint venture between Heartland Alliance Housing and the Center on Halsted. Resident household income is capped at $30,000 per year for most apartments, and rents are affordable based on this limit. Town Hall is located directly south of the Center on Halsted, a keystone for GLBT social services and community events. In addition to the resources provided at the Center, SAGE Center on Halsted provides residents with long term services and supports (LTSS) on-site.

Each of the 79 available units at Town Hall is now occupied, and there is a waiting list of approximately 400 people. The demand for housing in this inclusive development shows an unmet need for GLBT senior housing.

New York and Illinois are two of only 19 states that protect people from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.  The federal government protects members of the GLBT community only in buildings subject to HUD regulation. Private developments in states with no discrimination protection may reject applicants based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The HUD study mentioned above, however, discovered that discrimination rates are not reduced by overt protective language; all states discriminate with equal measure against people they perceive to be gay or lesbian. The problem of housing inequality, therefore, is outstanding.

The developments in Bay Shore and Chicago are havens for people have been denied shelter because of their sexuality or gender identity.

I began this article with the intent of chastising GLBT developments for isolating a subset of the already disenfranchised low-income population. I believed, upon first hearing about the new developments, they would have a negative affect on housing rights. Setting aside housing for one distinct group of people keeps housing away from others in need, who may not have a special social designation.

An editorial in Newsday had convinced me, for a moment, that GLBT buildings are too targeted and result in discrimination against poor heterosexual families and single adults who also cannot afford housing. After delving deeper into the topic, however, I realized my initial opinion was wrong. The GLBT community experiences the high rates of poverty common among seniors and is faced with a biased housing market. I agree with the article’s statement that “affordable housing for all should be the goal”, but I also believe that without assistance certain people, like GLBT seniors, might never secure adequate housing.

In an ideal world, discrimination would not exist. Until then, I will support housing that grants peace and comfort to people unable to find homes. I hope that the movement of Bay Shore, Town Hall and other developments in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and San Francisco are the catalysts to housing without exclusion.

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