Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy groups are joining forces with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to create a new campaign to address the housing needs of LGBT seniors nationwide.
The initiative includes plans to maximize housing opportunities, improve policy and cultural awareness and strengthen anti-discrimination protection for older LGBT people. Additional details about the initiative are still being developed.
In the senior housing space, the sector has seen an increasing number of LGBT-friendly communities pop up across the country, such as Pineapple House, a $58 million senior LGBT-focused rental community in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. slated to open mid-2016.
But, for the majority of older Americans, the high cost of senior living products, lack of caregivers and more all point to a seniors housing crisis — with those concerns being even more acute for the older LGBT demographic, advocacy groups said during a media briefing on the new initiative last week in New York. note: event was Feb. 3
“Because of discrimination, LGBT older adults face severe challenges to access affordable housing,” said Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocate for LGBT Elders (SAGE).
When surveyed, LGBT seniors regularly list housing discrimination as one of their primary concerns, including “trepidation” about mainstream senior housing options, according to a 2014 report from the Equal Rights Center (ERC). And those concerns are merited, said Melissa Rothstein, deputy director at the Equal Rights Center, pointing to data from an Equal Rights Center investigation.
In the investigation, the ERC conducted 200 tests across 10 states to measure the extent of adverse, differential treatment against a senior seeking housing for oneself and a same-sex partner. In 96 of the 200 tests conducted (48%), the LGB tester with a same-sex spouse experienced at least one type of adverse, differential treatment when compared to the heterosexual tester with an opposite-sex spouse.
“We need more legislation that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Rothstein said. “There is a patchwork of legislation in place, but we need those laws to be enforced or at times strengthened. Senior housing communities should have gender identity discrimination regulations within them.”
Jennifer Ho, senior advisor for Housing and Services at HUD, said HUD “stands with” the newly formed coalition to create more affordable housing options for LGBT Americans.
“This is a very LGBT-friendly administration,” Ho says, noting that she is a lesbian and has extensive experience working on housing issues. “There are more than 8.5 million Americans who spend too much of their income on a place to stay. America is aging at a rapid pace. Problems of access to good care and social supports are uniquely faced by folks in the LGBT community.”
HELP USA, a nonprofit housing advocacy and development organization, is partnering with SAGE to construct a LGBT-friendly senior housing project in the Bronx, Adams said during the panel. More details were not available, he said, as financing for the project is not yet in place.
Written by Cassandra Dowell