PHILADELPHIA, PA - The dmhFund and Pennrose Properties broke ground on the John C. Anderson Apartments, the nation’s first urban LGBT-friendly, low-income senior housing. John C. Anderson was a Philadelphia City Council member from 1979 until his death in 1983, and was instrumental in the passage of Philadelphia’s civil rights bill for sexual minority individuals. The building’s official name was unveiled at the ceremony by Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, who credits Anderson as his mentor. Joining him at the proceedings were former Gov. Ed Rendell, Congressman Bob Brady and other local and state officials, as well as pioneers of the LGBT-civil rights movement, dating as far back as the 1950s.
Financing for the $19.5 million project was provided through a Philadelphia HOME grant, Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Pennrose Properties, one of the nation’s top 10 affordable housing developers, is overseeing the project. WRT Design has been chosen as the architect and Domus Inc. as the general contractor.
The project is spearheaded by dmhFund president and well-known gay rights activist Mark Segal, who founded Gay Youth in 1970, the nation’s first organization to deal with gay teens and endangered LGBT youth issues. With other LGBT friendly senior housing projects struggling in cities across the country, Segal points out that this project is different.
“I’ve observed the challenging journeys of so many other LGBT senior housing developments and I knew the key to our success would have to be taking a different approach to funding by focusing outside the LGBT community, and going after the same money available to other communities for their low-income seniors,” said Segal, who pioneered local LGBT newspapers, including the Philadelphia Gay News, which he currently publishes.
“It’s heartening to know that local, state and federal officials from both sides of the aisle are understanding and supportive of our efforts to help our aging community members live out their golden years in comfort and dignity, without being forced back into the closet,” continued Segal. “With our numbers only continuing to rise, now is the perfect time.”
The need for services to the aging LGBT community is well documented. In 2005, the Mid-America Institute on Poverty found a significant demand for LGBT retirement communities, with nearly 65 percent of participants being interested in living in an affordable rental housing geared toward mature LGBT individuals and couples. The most reported reason for wanting to live in LGBT-senior rental housing was the prospect of living with people who had similar life experiences and views. Other reasons included acceptance, comfort, safety and an opportunity to meet people.
The creation of this senior residence in the “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” is particularly fitting in that Philadelphia and Pennsylvania led the way in many gay civil rights achievements. The first gay rights march took place in front of Independence Hall in 1965, Pennsylvania was the first state to enact discrimination protection for sexual orientation in state employment in 1975 under Gov. Milton Shapp and Philadelphia was one of the first cities to pass anti-gay discrimination legislation in 1982.