Bringing people together

All round the UK, individual older LGBT people are thinking and talking about where they’re going to live in the future, and who will look after them if they need care.

Not all of them, though, are looking at new housing schemes. Many are interested in shared housing or in other ways of working together to plan and develop their own housing.

Some may have a history of living in housing co-ops, hard-to-let schemes or shared housing schemes. So what options are available?

Co-housing

The UK Cohousing Network defines co-housing as:

A type of intentional community, composed of self-contained homes supplemented by shared facilities. The community is planned and managed by the residents.

There are a number of co-housing schemes around the country: at the moment, none are LGBT-led. There are, however, a number of groups of lesbians who are setting up groups and looking at developments in Brighton and London.

Co-housing offers the potential for groups of older LGBT people to come together to form a community of good neighbours. Most include some communal living space and one expectation that residents will contribute to community life and look out for each other. Care or domiciliary services will be accessed in the usual way.

There are a number of ways to develop co-housing schemes. You don’t have to involve housing associations or public funding. There are examples of groups investing their resources together: others are groups of people who are all homeowners.

Co-housing is not cheap. Nor is it a quick solution. But it could be the right solution for many older LGBT people.

Shared housing

Shared housing is another, more affordable way for people to live together in a shared space. Typically, a shared house would include private bedrooms, and shared living spaces, like a shared living room, kitchen and bathroom.

One impact of the housing market shortage is that more people are looking at shared housing as an alternative to living alone or with a partner, for example younger people.

Shared housing might also be an option for older LGBT people, although there may be issues if people need domiciliary care or other services coming into the home.

Another option would be for a housing association to specialise in shared housing for older LGBT people: they can then provide the management and any additional social support that the residents require. This might be an attractive option for people with a history of insecure housing and isolation, who don’t have the experience of skills to manage their own home. Ideally this type of model would be developed with close links to a local LGBT project or community.

 

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. When Stonewall Housing launched the feasibility study, we received comments from LGBT people via social media about the plan to develop housing for older LGBT people specifically. Their views are thought provoking and challenging. One person questioned how welcoming the space would be to all LGBT people, especially trans people since they viewed many services as being delivered by and for cisgender people. 
I agree. This is a challenge to all providers and commissioners: we need to ensure that we are meeting the needs of all LGBT communities and not just the white, middle class, or affluent gay men, for instance. Services need to cater for all lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people and not just in name only. The next step from the feasibility study needs to ensure that all options cater for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, including asexual people, intersex people, non-binary people, people with disabilities, BME people, those who own their own homes, those who are in insecure rented housing and those sleeping on the streets.
    We are looking forward to completing the feasibility study phase and then opening up the discussion to the wider communities to draw in the spectrum of views and voices from our communities.
Stonewall Housing’s supported housing for LGBT people under 25 includes houses specifically for LBT women, BME LGBT people and GBT men. We have also developed a shared house for trans people over the age of 25, with St Mungo’s. Perhaps this approach might interest some older LGBT people, though perhaps we should start by developing.

  2. Although it is clear that some members of the LGBT community seek out older persons schemes where they know other LGBT individuals live and apply for those schemes, not all members of the LGBT community will have this knowledge or these informal contacts. 
Now is the time for LGBT (51% plus) older peoples housing schemes to be developed. Why? because those members of the LGBT community who were the first to “come out” are now of an age where they need to consider older age care and support. Most do not have the support of children – unlike many non LGBT older people, many of their peer age group are still homophobic, many care providers are from countries with a conservative or hostile view re: LGBT individuals and nobody should fear or actually go back into the closet in older age.
Manchester is a gay friendly city, where it would make sense to develop a model. Whether that is a co-housing model, Housing association led, driven by the private sector, a mix of ownership and rental units or not etc etc needs to be considered with local LGBT residents via targeted consultation.

  3. Whilst having lots of options is good, we shouldn’t reply too heavily on self organising housing options. These can as inferred above have pit falls in terms of accessibility. Barriers based on a persons health, wealth and/or education could all be used as ways of excluding membership and this could create an elitist environment. 
I think encouraging people to rent their spare rooms is an interesting idea however the power dynamic (the renter being an excluded occupier) and lack of security could be an issue. 
Many younger people find LGBT+ flatmates online using forums such as Homes for Queers etc. Outlet do a ‘flatmate speed-dating’ event. Perhaps there could be a forum for us to help Older LGBT people connect and find people to live with and support.

  4. Community led models of housing are quite diverse in their set-up and some are much harder to pull off than others. Co-housing is perhaps the hardest model to develop as it requires alot of development support, both in bringing people together as well as negotiating how things will be run.
What has often been a barrier to this kind of work is that people look to new build as the solution rather than refurb (which is the self-hlep housing approach). I think a focus on converting street properties into shared housing options or even co-housing options should be explored over new build – which is expensive and much more difficult.

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