Monday, October 3

First-of-its kind housing for LGBTQ+ seniors is close to opening in Cincinnati

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As a Black queer senior, I was excited to read about The John Arthur Flats, an LGBTQ+ housing project in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati

Named after one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court marriage equality decision, the space is billed as ” the first targeted LGBTQ+ friendly 55+ senior affordable housing development in Cincinnati.” The project consists of 57 units that are either studio or 1 or 2 bedroom apartments.

According to SAGE — a national advocacy and services organization looking out for LGBTQ+ elders —LGBTQ+ seniors are twice as likely to be single and live alone, and four times less likely to have adult children than their straight counterparts.

With LGBTQ+ seniors at an elevated risk for isolation, hostile living environments, and even homelessness, John Arthur Flats has the potential to both alleviate some of this risk as well as provide a blueprint for further senior housing and programming for the LGBTQ+ senior population.

To learn more, I spoke with Amber Seely-Marks, senior developer with Pennrose, the firm managing the joint project with NEST(Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation).

The Buckeye Flame published a piece on this project a year and a half ago.  What has been the progress?  How has COVID altered those plans?
Even with supply chain issues, building materials and  worker shortages, we have pretty much stayed on schedule with this project. The building is projected to be completed by the end of May and the first move-ins are planned in June.  We will have the housing applications uploaded to our website by March. Right now, we are working to hire the property manager who will be able to answer questions for those interested in this housing.

Have you started a search for this position?
We are currently in process. There’s a compliance/ background side to this work because of the income restrictions, so the person would have be knowledgeable about affordable housing requirements as well as the right spirit and presence to be there at the house. They will provide active house support on the compliance side.

What do you mean by compliance?
Our primary funding source is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit which sets the affordability requirements. We have units that are set aside for households earning 30% of the area medium income as well as units set aside for households earning 60% of the area medium income. All units are classified as “affordable housing.” This housing is considered independent living and the age to be considered a senior is 55 and older.

Tell me a little more about the program being “gay-friendly.”  Honestly, when I hear that term in general,  I interpret that to mean that a business welcomes queer dollars but queer people aren’t necessarily the primary market. Can you clarify that for me?
We want these units to be filled with LGBTQ+ folx.  However, [identifying as]LGBTQ+ is not a protected class according to Fair Housing Laws, so we cannot require someone to prove they’re gay or exclude folx from housing based on sexual orientation.

That said, this is a community where we want queer seniors to feel safe and to have access to services they need. We’ll have some very nice community spaces: a fitness space, an outdoor roof terrace, and we are including a dog park.  We have a network of supportive services such as Caracole, Equitas Health and the Council on Aging who will all have access to our wellness center and consultation rooms for meetings with  with our residents.

Since we cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation and the units will be filled on a first come, first served basis, we want to get the word out to LGBTQ+ seniors so they can get their applications in early to make sure the folx who will most benefit from this project are getting access.

With most projects like this, there’s typically a Grand Opening Celebration to mark the occasion. Is there one planned for John Arthur Flats?
Yes! There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony held on Friday, June 24th of Pride Weekend.

We encourage folx interested in housing to go to the site, and fill out the contact form.  When the application is up next month, they’ll receive notification in an email blast that applications are available.

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About Author

Ron Clemons is a retired Social Worker, Educator and long time community activist based in CIncinnati. His passions are Photography, Writing and Story Telling. He considers himself a Grio.

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