Chicago has recently built its first LGBT-friendly affordable senior housing complex called Town Hall Apartments. The apartments contain 79 units, and they consist of a mixture of one bedroom and studio apartments.
The apartments are a joint project between the anti-poverty foundation, Heartland Alliance, and the LGBT resource center, the Center on Halsted. Heartland Alliance developed the property, and it will continue to manage it. The Center on Halsted will provide services including case management and programming.
The apartments cost $23.7 million to build, and they were opened in August of last year. Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which took place in October.
In order to move in, aspiring residents must be 55 or older, have an income of no greater than $30,000, and pass a criminal background check.
Subsidies are being provided through the Property Rental Assistance program from the Chicago Housing Authority. The program ensures that no tenant’s rent exceeds 30% of their income.
The apartments are doing a great job of assisting many financially-challenged gay seniors in obtaining affordable housing. Many of these individuals were hit hard in the financial crisis during the recession. Residents of the apartments say that there is a strong sense of community, and they have quickly connected with one-another in sharing their own personal stories and experiences.
According to the Heartland Alliance, 40,000 LGBT seniors lived in Chicago in 2007. One-fifth of these people were living in poverty.
These seniors grew up in a time when “coming out” as gay or transgendered often resulted in arrest, violence, discrimination, and social rejection. The Town Hall apartments will guarantee that LGBT seniors have a place where they are accepted.
The apartments will also serve as a hub for social and recreational services for gay seniors. There is a community kitchen and activities such as coffee hour, subsidized lunches, weekly discussion groups, and afternoon movies. The first floor of the building is accessible to the public.
The building was designed by the building firm Gensler, which also designed the Center on Halsted. Included in the construction is the recycling of a decommissioned police station.
Residents and staff of the apartments are required to use a key card in order to access the residential floors. LGBT residents stated that the peace of mind that comes from such security measures was particularly important to them.
Other amenities of Town Hall include a fitness center and a lounge known as the “Rainbow Room”. There is also a spacious dining room where residents eat together and hold a monthly potluck dinner. Many private parties also take place.
The apartments are located at 3600 N. Halsted, right in the heart of Chicago’s gay district, which is nicknamed by citizens of Chicago as “Boystown”.