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UK’s first LGBTQ retirement community set to open in 2021

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has confirmed a £5.7 million Community Housing Fund loan for the purchase of 19 homes in a Vauxhall housing development.

By Will Stroude

Many of us have dreamt of the queer commune we’d retire to with our gay BFFs one day, and that goal may be one step closer to reality with the news that the UK’s first LGBTQ retirement community has been given the green light to open in 2021.

Mayor London Sadiq Khan has confirmed a £5.7 million Community Housing Fund loan for Tonic Housing to create the country’s first ‘LGBT+ affirming’ retirement community in Vauxhall, south London.

The support from City Hall will enable Tonic Housing to purchase 19 properties at One Housing’s Bankhouse older living development in Lambeth, on the bank of the River Thames.

With sales of one and two-bedroom shared ownership homes due to begin later this spring, the first residents are expected to start moving in from summer 2021.

Tonic Housing is set to purchase 19 properties at One Housing’s Bankhouse older living development in Vauxhall, Lambeth, on the bank of the River Thames (Image: supplied)

LGBTQ people can disproportionately suffer from loneliness and isolation in later life, with many less like to have children or family support to rely on. 

Older LGBTQ people can also face discrimination or feel compelled to go back into the closet when entering care or housing, and Tonic Housing say their goal is to “create a unique offering of housing with care that celebrates LGBT+ identities with the community at the very heart of their homes.”

The charity, which was established in 2014, says events and activities will be organised based on residents’ interests and in conjunction with other LGBTQ groups, with on-site care staff at Bankhouse being given tailored, LGBTQ-inclusive training.

Non-LGBTQ people will not be prevented from entering the scheme, but the scheme is designed to affirm the lives of the LGBTQ people who do.

In a statement, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I am proud to support Tonic in creating the UK’s first LGBTQ+ retirement community. London is an open, diverse, inclusive city and I’m delighted to see these long-held plans come to fruition with the help of this loan and my Community-led Housing Hub.

“Older Londoners deserve to be able to enjoy their later years in comfort and security, surrounded by a thriving, supportive community. I look forward to seeing this realised at Bankhouse and to supporting Tonic’s work to establish further LGBTQ+ affirming developments in the years to come.”

Anna Kear, CEO for Tonic Housing, stresses to Attitude the importance of providing supportive spaces for LGBTQ people in old age.

“I’m often asked why LGBT+ affirming retirement communities are needed, and the answer is that is all about having a safe place to live well, in a community where people can be themselves and enjoy their later life”, she says. 

“We know from research, that in addition to the issues of ageing, older LGBT+ people, compared to the general population have generally worse health outcomes, are more likely to live alone, be single and less likely to have children and family support, something which is heavily relied upon in our care system.

“They are also less likely to feel a sense of belonging to their local community, and feel that their specific needs are not considered in their care. We hear this from older LGBT+ people directly, as illustrated in our Building Safe Choices 2020 report, they want somewhere that they feel safe and to be with other LGBT people to be part of a community and have conversations and activities based on shared life experiences, which can be very different from the general population.’

“One of the many messages we have received today illustrates this “To see that Tonic are creating a safe space for us…is beyond my hopes and dreams.”

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