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Affordable Housing for Seniors in New York

September 19th, 2017

LGBT seniors are particularly vulnerable to housing discrimination.

LGBT seniors are particularly vulnerable to housing discrimination.

Statistics reveal that there are close to 600,000 LGBT individuals living in New York City, of which 100,000 are senior citizens. About 48% of LGBT same sex couples who applied for affordable housing, however, have suffered discrimination in relationship to living conditions. An organization called SAGE has taken up efforts to create affordable housing for senior citizens that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

The Importance of the SAGE Project

This is an important project because LGBT individuals are more likely to require assistance as senior citizens because a large number of them are single, do not have children, and lack the support of family members. Without projects like these, there is a risk of LGBT individuals becoming isolated and experiencing an increased number of obstacles as senior citizens. This program comes while New York City has announced plans to increase funding for senior center expansions but has experienced difficulty in providing living spaces.

Announced Plans for Housing Construction

SAGE is currently working in combination with Help USA in the Bronx and Brooklyn’s BFC Partners as well as several other entities to construct affordable LGBT-friendly housing for seniors. SAGE has currently announced that two buildings will be constructed in the New York City area including an 84-unit apartment building in the Cortona Park section of the Bronx and a 145-unit building at a public housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Construction is anticipated to be completed in May of 2019 for both the Cortona Park and Fort Greene projects.

Applicable Law Regarding Fair Housing

The Fair Housing Act was passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and aimed to provide a unitary housing market in which a person’s background does not arbitrarily restrict access to housing. Specifically, the Fair Housing Act prohibits refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to anyone on the basis of color, national origin, race, religion, sex, disability or familial status. Unfortunately, the Fair Housing Act does not specifically protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, though if the discrimination is based on non-conformity with gender stereotypes, it may be covered under sex discrimination. Many states, including New York, do protect against discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and localities such as New York City additionally protect transgender individuals. As a result of these laws, the new buildings under way must be accessible to anyone who meets age and income qualifications even though the buildings are marketed to LGBT individuals.

The Goal of the Universal Life Church’s Blog

The applicable body of law concerning LGBT issues is particularly complicated. This recent case concerning housing has emphasized how even in states and localities where LGBT people are specifically protected from housing discrimination, LGBT senior citizens are still particularly vulnerable. Moreover, currently only 20 states and DC explicitly outlaw housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and two more ban it based on sexual orientation alone. The Fair and Equal Housing Act is a bill currently under consideration in Congress that would expand the Fair Housing Act to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. In creating the two new housing developments, New York City has joined many other cities that offer similar types of housing including Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. By remaining up to date with our blog, you can remain up to date on the various issues concerning LGBT rights.

(image courtesy of Milind Kaduskar)

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