New housing for LGBT seniors is the country’s largest building project of its kind

Mayor Michael Nutter, Pennrose Properties and president of the DMH Fund Mark Segal announced the planned construction this evening of a public-private apartment building geared toward LGBT seniors.

The William Way Senior Homes have been in the works for over two years, stalled by funding delays and the loss of the project’s initial proposed location. But developers received word that they could move forward Thursday after being awarded $11 million in low income housing tax credits by the state.

“It’s been a longtime dream of many of us,” said Segal, who has been asked to present the project at the White House Wednesday. “This is a group that has basically been invisible and we strive to make available to them the healthcare and services that they need.”

The six-story complex – slated to be built on land purchased from the city Redevelopment Authority on 13th Street between Locust and Spruce streets – will be among the first of its kind in the U.S. and is the largest publicly funded building project for the LGBT community in the nation. “Only in this place can you say ‘bigger is better’ and people get excited,” Nutter cracked. “This is a milestone here in Philadelphia and also in the United States of America.”

Segal said he first learned of the need for affordable housing through a 1998 study of the LGBT senior community. “I never expected that would be the first issue,” he said. “But the question of ‘is there a need’ – would you ask the same thing of the Jewish community or the Catholic community?”

He said that the demand will continue to increase as the population grays. “I think there are more seniors who want to be out now, but in their current living facilities are not able to be,” he said. “This will give them a chance to live a full life in security and with people who will embrace them.”

Breaking it down

>> A recent UCLA study concluded that gay men and lesbians older than 65 have significantly higher poverty rates than straight seniors, underscoring the necessity of affordable housing.

>> Developers hope to break ground by the fall on the project, which will provide 56 one bedroom apartments and 2700 square feet of rentable ground floor space for health care and other social and community services tailored to the needs of the LGBT community.

>> Applicants must be age 62 or older and make less than 60 percent of the Philadelphia median income. The population will not be limited exclusively to seniors of any one sexual orientation, which would violate equal housing laws.

>> Some of the development’s earliest supporters included Councilman Jim Kenney and former councilman Frank DiCicco. Other politicians in attendance at this evening’s announcement included Councilmen Mark Squilla, Bill Green and David Oh and State Reps. Mike O’Brien, Babette Josephs and Mark Cohen.

By the numbers

$19M. Total cost of the project, much of which is subsidized by state and federal funding.

56. One bedroom apartments will be provided by the building.

$175. Lowest starting rent for low-income residents.

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