LGBT-specific housing is not for everyone, but it will be for some and it will attract people who do not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary. For example Canal Street in Manchester is a commercial space open to all, that many LGBT people feel safe in and have christened their own ‘village’. However, it must be noted that trans and non-binary people, LBT women and BAME LGBT people may not always feel safe in these spaces. Every effort should be made to ensure LGBT people feel safe and welcome in an extra care scheme, however there is no one-size-fits-all answer for all LGBT people. For example some people may prefer women-only schemes, intergenerational schemes or co-housing.
People must be aware of what an extra care scheme is before deciding that this is the best option for them. An extra-care scheme can be described as housing with care. People live in their own homes and are able to have independence, but they also receive care and support such as help with daily tasks and help to manage health conditions. This LGBT extra care scheme is going to be a range of houses and flats for people with heath and care needs and the majority of residents with be LGBT. The scheme will have specific elements that make it LGBT friendly and to make LGBT residents feel welcome and supported.
The initial idea of retirement or supported housing for older LGBT people was superseded by the prospect of an extra care scheme because this could attract more capital and revenue funding. People’s health can improve in extra care facilities with their focus on social spaces and catering. With on-site care teams they have proven to "add years to people’s lives" and they have been seen to protect people during the pandemic. Evidence shows that an extra care scheme will not attract more care costs, rather it improves quality of life. However, people and communities need further education about the offer of extra care and how it differs from retirement villages and care homes. People often think that the extra care scheme is no different to retirement housing, so the care aspect of the scheme needs to be emphasised and highlighted.
The first will always be a struggle and there is nervousness when people are starting from scratch. The idea of extra care though not new can be misunderstood and be unfamiliar. There were no other specific housing projects for older LGBT people in the UK and there was a danger in copying international models that may not be viable in the UK. The data to back up the proposal in Manchester was limited so some may not have seen a clear business case to begin with. Bringing together organisations and different teams within the council who may not have had a history of collaboration proved challenging but in the end, it started to generate a better understanding of the scheme.
We will be discussing specific aspects of the scheme which will inform future updates to this journal. Subjects will include:
- Tenure mix – how many apartments will be for rent or sale?
- Management – what policies will be written to ensure the safety of those living in the scheme and to encourage their involvement in activity planning, for example?
- Allocations – what criteria is used to select applicants? How was the process agreed? How important are care needs and local connection?