With Friday's dedication of the Town Hall Apartments, Chicago joined the ranks of five other American cities where LGBT older adults can find housing that is both affordable and welcoming.
Jointly developed by Heartland Alliance Housing and the Center on Halsted, Town Hall Apartments represents a unique partnership between a community housing development organization and the Midwest’s most comprehensive LGBT community center to address a very real need. With 20 percent of Chicago’s LGBT community living below the poverty line, the struggle of LGBT older adults to find affordable housing where they can live without fear is well documented (here and here). The irony that this development incorporates in its design, a former Chicago police station where LBGT persons were once routinely harassed, humiliated and arrested, was not lost on those attending Friday's ceremony.
Ten years in the making, Town Hall Apartments is located immediately south of the Center on Halsted, on the fringe of Chicago’s historic gay neighborhood. At a total cost of $23 million, Town Hall offers studio and one-bedroom apartments to those who are 55-years of age and older and most apartments are limited to people earning less than $30,000 per year. Along with the 79 residential units, the building features a computer lab, fitness room, outdoor terrace and laundry rooms on each floor. Long-term services and supports (LTSS) will be provided to the residents by SAGE Center on Halsted.
The first residents moved in at the end of the August and the building is now fully occupied. With almost 400 individuals on a waiting list, it would not be surprising to see another development of this type be proposed and constructed within the next few years.
I’ve often expressed my skepticism about the viability of market-rate LGBT senior housing. Affluent lesbian and gay individuals, like other affluent Americans, are recognized by housing developers and providers of LTSS as a desirable segment of the marketplace and increasingly are finding themselves being marketed to with the same ferocity as their straight contemporaries. Faith-sponsored projects aside, senior housing developments must typically appeal to the broadest audience to assure adequate ROI, thus making an exclusively LGBT, market-rate community a tricky sales proposition.
Three LGBT accepting/affirming affordable senior housing projects have opened in the past year and last week, the Long Island GLBT Services Network announced its development of a 50-unit building, similar to the Town Hall Apartments, for a site in Bay Shore, New York. This will be the first development of its type in the New York area and collectively these projects should serve as further evidence to industry leaders, that this market is underserved and ripe for development.
Friday morning’s dedication featured politicians from local, state and federal governments and included among the speakers were Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Mike Quigley, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Alderman Tom Tunney (who deserves special mention for originally conceiving of the project) and the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.
In addition to those named above, the following corporations also deserve a shout-out for their support of this historic project: Gensler, Power Construction Company, Citi Community Capital, Chicago Housing Authority, Illinois Department of Human Services, and the National Equity Fund.
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