So you want to build LGBTQ+ Inclusive Housing?

LGBTQ+ elders are disproportionately affected by housing discrimination and housing insecurity when compared to non-LGBTQ+ elders. SAGE has long recognized that LGBTQ+ affirming housing is a key stabilizing factor for LGBTQ+ elders and are committed to address this need with the work of our National LGBTQ+ Housing Initiative.

Our Successes and Challenges to Developing LGBTQ+ Inclusive Affordable Housing

In 2014, SAGE began actively exploring an LGBTQ+-welcoming elder housing model. SAGE collaborated with developers, BFC Partners and HELP USA to create New York State’s two first LGBTQ+-welcoming elder housing developments: Stonewall House in Brooklyn and Crotona Pride House in the Bronx.


Throughout this development process, SAGE experienced various successes and challenges resulting in insights about the development process.

Invest In On-Site Services
Invest In On-Site Services
LGBTQ+ culturally responsive services help residents maintain housing stability and support healthy aging. These services can also serve as distinguishing features of housing centers.
Mission Aligned Partnerships
Mission Aligned Partnerships
Project success relies on long-term collaboration and trust amongst all partners. Partners should be selected in accordance with the mission, community need, and commitment.
Outreach to Potential Tenants
Outreach to Potential Tenants
To ensure reach and inclusion, begin targeted outreach to potential residents early. SAGE engaged in rigorous in-person event outreach, as well as through community partners, digital media and more.

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Understand The Lease-Up Process
Understand The Lease-Up Process
Local systems and protocols for affordable housing can limit access to LGBTQ+ elders and impact the goal of ensuring housing for the LGBTQ+ elder community.
Creative and Adaptive Funding is Key
Unanticipated gaps in funding are probable throughout the development process. All partners must display creativity and adaptability in funding strategy.
Crisis Requires Flexibility and Investment
Crisis Requires Flexibility and Investment
The COVID-19 pandemic presented significant challenges, such as social isolation, death of residents, and resurfaced trauma from the AIDS epidemic. SAGE staff had to pivot to meet these needs.

Lessons Along Our Affordable Housing Development Journey

There are five various stages in the housing development process: pre-development, feasibility analysis, financing, construction, and operations. We recognize that these steps are not always linear – partnership building, securing capital and fundraising, and community engagement and buy-in are ongoing through the housing development process. Construction and lease-up can take unanticipated turns that cause developers to go back to the drawing board. Regardless of the non-linearity of these steps, SAGE has identified several lessons from each of these steps in the process, outlined below. For more detail, see our downloadable case study.

Engage the Community from Ideation Onwards

SAGE’s exploration of LGBTQ+ welcoming housing dates back to the 1980s. Over the subsequent four decades, we engaged in discussions with donors, board members, constituents, and activists and began documenting LGBTQ+ elders’ housing challenges and the need to create housing for the older LGBTQ+ community.

After our Board of Directors voted to enable the organization to explore a range of housing models, we connected with LGBTQ+ community-based organizations to understand how to bring this project to life and to learn more about best practices in LGBTQ+ friendly housing developments across the nation.

Internal and External Partnership Building is Crucial

In 2015, two developers approached SAGE about two separate proposed LGBTQ+ welcoming housing projects; HELP USA in the Bronx and BFC Partners in Brooklyn. These two internal partnerships were foundational to the housing project and more detail can be found in our case study.

External partnerships were just as important. We cultivated trust from the very beginning of the planning process, which meant identifying existing relationships in the community, including elected officials, community boards, community residents, community organizations, and religious or social institutions. Consideration for the complicated history of housing policy and displacement meant bringing the needs of local residents and entities into the fold. We also worked closely with other community partners in the development process: state agencies, elected officials, philanthropy organizations, police precincts, community organizations, and even in-residence tenant associations.

All of these partners were vital in the process of establishing the two developments.

Understanding the Potential Timing of Site Acquisition

Neither residence required a site acquisition process, saving time for the developer teams in the planning processes. For Stonewall House, the site was already identified by BFC Partners. For Crotona Pride House, the site was already owned by HELP USA, and the residence was built on a former parking lot. Other projects may need to invest a considerable amount of research, community feedback sessions, and competitive processes to acquire a site. This may include plans for a new building or a building rehab.

Construction Takes Time and Intentional Design

Construction typically takes approximately 18 to 24 months, depending on the size and demands of the building. Delays, such as archaeological finds (Stonewall) or issues with nearby buildings (Crotona), are common for construction projects, especially at the scale of LGBTQ+ inclusive affordable elder housing.

During construction of these two buildings, SAGE ensured that the architects and the builders centered age-friendly design in the physical infrastructure of each building, which considered fine motor, physical, and cognitive decline. Design elements may include emergency alert systems in common or private spaces; smooth brick and doorway design to prevent fall hazards; well-lit and non-institutional lighting; or shower bars and chairs.

Geographic location is also critical. It’s important to think about walkability and accessibility for wheelchairs, walkers, or mobility support, proximity to essential staples and fresh food, and access to transportation.

Securing Capital Requires Creativity, Flexibility, and Persistence

SAGE’s housing projects faced last-minute financing gaps, which required creative and persistent fundraising campaigns. To close that gap, we undertook a fundraising campaign focused on government sources, such as the New York City Council, and on private foundations. We worked closely with New York State and City elected officials to secure significant financial support from the New York City Council. Other funders include the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), and HPD’S Senior Affordable Rental Program (SARA).

SAGE utilized creative and persistent fundraising campaigns through various avenues to address the unexpected financial gaps in development.

Establish Local Buy-In Every Step of the Way

An important step to developing inclusive housing is establishing a connection with the neighborhood that the development will most impact. A development can also serve the surrounding residents of the community, and engaging these stakeholders as equal partners in the development process is imperative to creating equitable housing.

Stonewall House is located in the Fort Greene community of Brooklyn, a historically Black neighborhood which has been significantly gentrified over the last decades. Local community members were wary of the impact of another new, tall housing development in the neighborhood. In response to these concerns, SAGE and our partners worked to build the trust of the community and to learn from the community about their neighborhood desires and needs.

A vital lesson in this process is to involve community members of the desired development neighborhood well before the actual development process begins.

Additional Development Resources

Are you interested in learning more about the process of developing LGBTQ+ inclusive, affordable senior housing?

If so, you can access the NHI Training Modules or the NHI Toolkit to learn more about inclusive housing for LGBTQ+ elders.