In February this year, Manchester City Council announced its plans to create a community aimed at elder lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The project, which is the first LGBT majority “Extra Care” scheme in the UK, is intended to be part of the city’s programme in charge of providing high quality housing for elder people. Extra Care schemes are targeted developments for the eldery, offering apartments to rent and purchase for people aged 55 plus in a scheme where a 24-hour care team is based on site. The Extra Care schemes offer facilities such as communal spaces, bistros and retail outlets, making them outward facing within a local community.
Talking about this project, Bob Green OBE, CEO of Stonewall Housing, said: “Stonewall Housing has been talking with our communities about the need for older LGBT housing for some time because we need and want a better choice of where we live in our later lives. It is very exciting that Manchester City Council is leading the way in delivering the dream of LGBT-affirmative Extra Care housing and we look forward to working with them and a range of partners in making this dream a reality.”
According to the Manchester City Council, the city’s elder LGBT population is growing. There seem to be more than 7,000 people in Manchester over the age of 50 identifying as LGBT and there is an expected increase of over-65s in the next two decades. A recent LGBT Foundation report, commissioned by Manchester City Council, indicated a real need of companionship and community amongst LGBT elder people and a desire for affordable, accessible, LGBT specific accommodation where they can be open about their identity in later life. With the support of the LGBT Foundation, Stonewall Housing and the Homes and Communities Agency, Manchester City Council aims to respond to this need by setting up the basis of a safe and welcoming environment for LGBT people, while drawing inspiration from similar projects across the world. This affordable housing project, featuring well-trained and experienced staff and carers, aims to include minimum 51% LGBT residents, while also being open to heterosexual people. An added innovation brought forward by this scheme is the proposal to operate as a pet-friendly community, which may prove particularly helpful to elder people away from children and families.
Talking about the programme, Bev Craig, Manchester City Council’s lead member for LGBT women, said: “.. it is time that we develop a scheme in Manchester that provides care for LGBT people, providing a place where the LGBT community can give each other a network of support in older age.” On the same note, Bernard Priest, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, added: “…I’m keen to develop this project given Manchester’s standing as an LGBT friendly city, and our status as an international Age-friendly city.”
The announcement of this scheme may represent a significant move towards improving the lives of older LGBT people in Manchester area by offering a fresh perspective of advancing in age, with social inclusion as a main plus. For elder minorities, such as the LGBT people, answering the need for safe housing and support in later life, where they are offered the opportunity and freedom to be themselves and be understood, may prove particularly helpful. In order to thrive at any stage in life, it may be essential for people to have a range of options to choose from, including LGBT specific and affirming housing and support.
How may Manchester’s example of equality towards the LGBT community inspire other British cities?