rainbow bunting
Photo by Karl Bewick on Unsplash

The fantastic news yesterday that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is providing a £5.7 million loan to Tonic Housing – an innovative community-led housing project –  means that Lambeth will proudly be home to the first LGBT+ dedicated older people’s housing anywhere in the UK. With the support of Sadiq’s Community-led Housing Hub, the UK’s first LGBT+ retirement community should be able to open in 2021.

Lambeth has the largest proportion of LGBT+ residents in the country – it’s a place where people feel they can be themselves. In the same way as people have come from all over the world to make Lambeth their home, making it one of the most ethnically diverse places on the planet, it’s also been a haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. 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.

That’s why it’s so important that, thanks to co-operative and community-led models, Tonic Housing has found a way to support the delivery of specialised LGBT+ housing for older people. Just as as black and ethnic minority housing co-ops sprang up in the 20th century to address the need for housing that was non-discriminatory and met the needs of those communities, we also need to make sure that in the 21st century there’s recognition and support for the needs of all residents as they age. It’s a powerful testament to the power of communities co-operating together to find solutions to the problems they face.