Sheltered housing co-op set up for elderly LGBT+ Londoners

The Tonic Housing project, in Lambeth, has received a £5.7m loan from London mayor Sadiq Khan

The Greater London Authority has agreed a £5.7m loan to Tonic Housing, a community-led housing project for older LGBT+ people.

The Lambeth development – the UK’s first dedicated housing project for older LGBT+ people – is set to open this year, with the backing of the Greater London Authority’s Community-led Housing Hub.

Tonic, a community benefit society, was established in 2014 to address the loneliness, isolation and housing needs of older LGBT+ people, to provide accommodation and safe social spaces.

It chose London for its first project because the capital has the largest older LGBT+ population in the UK – an estimated 145,000 people. It is also working in other areas, such as Manchester with the LGBT Foundation.

It has completed the purchase of 19 properties at Bankhouse, a dedicated older living housing development overlooking the Thames at Albert Embankment.

Tonic CEO Anna Kear said: “We are making history, realising a long held dream to provide a safe place for older LGBT+ people to live well, in a community where they can be themselves and enjoy their later life.”

Cllr Matthew Bennett, Lambeth’s cabinet member for planning, investment and new homes, wrote in a blog on the Co-op Party website that the scheme meant older residents could avoid the risk of isolation after moving into sheltered housing.

The Labour/Co-op councillor said: “Lambeth has the largest proportion of LGBT+ residents in the country – it’s a place where people feel they can be themselves.

“For many of us, London, Lambeth, or any big city, offers freedom and the ability to live and love openly. Now the first LGBT+ generation who’ve been able to live their lives in the open is reaching older age. For many they’ve been confronted with the prospect of moving into sheltered housing or care homes, where the other residents are overwhelmingly straight. 

“Moving into specialised older people’s housing can be a daunting experience for anyone: it’s one of life’s threshold moments, but for LGBT+ people it’s also the first return to an institutional setting since school. There’s genuine concern that having fought for the right to live their lives as themselves that this generation will find themselves back in the closet, isolated from their community.”

He added: “It’s a powerful testament to the power of communities co-operating together to find solutions to the problems they face.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “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.”

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