Hundreds of people have expressed interest in flats in the UK’s first LGBT+ affirming retirement community after it was announced this week.
Tonic Housing has already had several hundred people register specific interest in living in the community.
Earlier this week, Tonic announced it had secured a £5.7million loan from the Mayor of London, enabling the purchase of 19 properties at Bankhouse, a One Housing older living scheme in Vauxhall, to open a LGBT+ affirming retirement community.
James Greenshields, one of Tonic’s Founding Board Members said: “As a consequence of the publicity the launch has generated, the phones the emails have been ringing off the hook or whatever the equivalent is for an email.
“It has been hectic in the last 24 hours and that is a fantastic thing.”
Sales of the affordable housing in the Bankhouse building are due to begin in late spring this year, with the first residents expected to move in from mid-summer 2021.
Greenshields added: “The idea came from a sense of reflecting on our own lives and what would happen, when, if, the time would come, we might need to think about that kind of support.
“This prompted some research that uncovered really worrying statistics in terms of the number of older LGBT people who went into mainstream retirement schemes choosing to go back into the closet because they felt that was the safer option for them.
“There is nothing more poignant to think of that generation, who undertook so much on behalf of all of the rest of the community, so we can live the lives we live today, in the most vulnerable point in their lives, deciding that they needed to hide again.”
Tonic will run events and activities with residents based on their interests to support the LGBT+ community, with all staff receiving full LGBT+ training.
Tonic Housing’s 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.”
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London added: “London is an open, diverse, inclusive city and I’m delighted to see these long-held plans come to fruition.”
The announcement has been met by support from local politicians which Greenshields hopes will increase awareness and improve policy and practice.
MP for Vauxhall, Florence Eshalomi, tweeted: “Great news and a really positive investment for #Vauxhall”.
Councillor Jack Hopkins, Leader of Lambeth Council said: “I am delighted to see that such an innovative and positive new development for older LGBTQ+ people is happening here in Lambeth.”
Tonic are in touch with a number of housing associations, and aim to open more similar communities in the future.
Tonic also plans on working with mainstream retirement communities so they can better support LGBT+ residents.
While there are limited apartments in this launch, Tonic encourages anyone who might be interested in a similar project to register interest.