Is LGBT Housing Right for You? Pros and Cons of LGBT Housing for Older Adults

April 2014 | SAGE

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In recent years, several housing developments and retirement communities targeted to LGBT older adults have opened around the country, gaining quite a bit of attention. If you’re an LGBT older adult considering one of these communities, here are some pros, cons and other factors to consider.

What are the pros of LGBT housing?

Housing specifically designed for LGBT older adults may be better equipped to meet your needs and expectations than more general housing developments or retirement communities. And LGBT-specific housing development can offer a sense of real LGBT community where other residents understand and know firsthand the challenges and triumphs that aging as an LGBT older adult presents. In addition, aging with other LGBT older adults can provide a sense of security. Surveys have shown that LGBT older adults who are unable to, or choose to, age outside of their homes prefer to age alongside other LGBT older adults, citing safety as the main reason.

In addition, some of the current and upcoming housing developments are aimed at low-income LGBT older adults, and are able to offer subsidized rents, extended long-term lease options, and the peace of mind that comes with having a stable home. Likewise, many of these housing developments understand the needs specific to the LGBT community, such as Triangle Square in the West Hollywood neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA, that specifically set aside 34 percent of its 104 units for those who are living with HIV/AIDS, are homeless, or are in danger of becoming homeless.

What are the cons?

Currently, there are fewer than a dozen operating LGBT-specific housing communities in the country.  If you live outside of these areas, moving to one of these communities will incur numerous expenses, such as moving costs, gas, lodging, and other fees.  In addition, having to relocate may mean leaving behind friends, family, and other integral support systems that you have developed over the years. 

Other things to consider include actual cost of the unit or land.  While many of the LGBT housing developments that utilize some form of public funding (such as Triangle Square) are often meant for low-income older adults, housing developments that are privately funded can be very expensive and offer little in terms of rent subsidies or assistance. This may have an impact on the diversity of a housing developments residents, as LGBT older adults of color, lesbians, and lesbians of color experience higher poverty rates and have expressed more interest in affordable housing in general than LGBT-specific housing.[1]

Other Factors to Consider

Lack of availability is currently an issue with LGBT-specific housing.  There are not currently enough LGBT-specific housing developments in the country to accommodate every LGBT older adult (although some LGBT older adults may not even be interested). While some current and forthcoming housing developments may have available units, other developments may have limited availability because residents are meant to stay long-term, greatly lessening each unit’s turnover rate.  Some affordable housing developments, faced with much greater demand than supply, have used a lottery system to determine its residents, unable to guarantee spots for even those with the greatest need.

Finally, while a housing development may be “LGBT-specific” or intended for LGBT older or retiring adults, the developer, its staff, or other affiliated stakeholders may not be aware of LGBT aging issues or culturally competent. In addition, keep in mind that while a housing development may be targeted to LGBT older adults and marketed to the LGBT community, because of fair housing laws and other considerations, there is never a guarantee that 100 percent of the residents will identify as LGBT. 

What other options do LGBT older adults have?

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging offers a robust training program for staff at housing developments and other residential settings. These various training programs assist in helping all staff become culturally competent in serving the needs of LGBT older adults. So, while LGBT-specific housing may be the right choice for some, for others, the Resource Center's goal is to make all housing options safe and comfortable places for older adults across the country.  

[1] See LGBT San Diego’s Trailblazing Generation: Housing and Related Needs of LGBT Seniors.  The San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.  February 2011.