The London housing association Tonic Housing is set to open the UK’s first LGBTQ+ retirement community after securing a £5.7 million loan from the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan.
The support from the Greater London Assembly (GLA)’s Community Housing Fund will allow Tonic Housing, set up in 2014 to address the need for specific housing for older LGBT+ people, to purchase 19 properties at Bankhouse, a One Housing independent living scheme in Vauxhall, Lambeth.
The community, called Tonic@Bankhouse, aims to ensure that older LGBTQ+ people do not feel the need to go back into the closet, a scenario Tonic Housing says older LGBTQ+ people often face when accessing care or housing.
The 19 homes will be made available for shared ownership, with sales set to start later this spring. The first residents are expected to move in from mid-summer 2021.
One Housing will continue to provide on-site care and support at Bankhouse. According to Tonic Housing, the new community will make it the UK’s first provider of LGBTQ+ affirmative housing with care.
Anna Kear, CEO of Tonic Housing, said:“We are making history today, 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. We applaud the mayor of London for recognising and supporting the needs of older LGBT+ Londoners.
“We intend this to be the first of many Tonic retirement communities, achieved by working in partnership in London and other cities. These first homes, that are already built and currently empty, will enable people who need and want this accommodation to have the benefit of it immediately. Working with One Housing, we can compliment the excellent care services that they provide for residents in the scheme.
“We intend that future Tonic schemes will provide a range of tenures directly, created through further acquisitions or new developments. Bankhouse is an important milestone in Tonic’s evolution. We’re so excited to get our future residents settled in their new homes and living in our community.”
Designed by the architect Norman Foster, Bankhouse consists of several one- and two-bedroom homes with an on-site restaurant, community space, a floating garden and a roof terrace with views of central London.
All Bankhouse staff will have LGBT+ training, while Tonic will co-create events and activities with residents based on their interests, including collaborations with other LGBT+ organisations and support providers.
Tonic Housing says it has focused on London for this first project as the capital has the UK’s largest older LGBTQ+ population, estimated to be 145,000 people. However, it is also working in other cities such as Manchester with the LGBT Foundation.
Khan commented: “I am proud to support Tonic in creating the UK’s first LGBTQ+ retirement community. London is an open, diverse, inclusive city and I’m delighted to see these long-held plans come to fruition with the help of this loan and my Community-led Housing Hub.
“Older Londoners deserve to be able to enjoy their later years in comfort and security, surrounded by a thriving, supportive community. I look forward to seeing this realised at Bankhouse and to supporting Tonic’s work to establish further LGBTQ+ affirming developments in the years to come.”
Richard Hill, chief executive of One Housing, added: “We are delighted to be working alongside Tonic Housing and the GLA to provide homes for older LGBT+ people. We have a long history of investing in homes and communities and providing assisted living to older people.
“We look forward to welcoming new LGBT+ customers to Bankhouse where they’ll be able to enjoy all the advantages of independent living with on-site care and support when they need it.”
Image: The Bankhouse scheme in Vauxhall, Lambeth. Credit: One Housing/Tonic Housing