‘I knew I wanted to stay here for the rest of my life’: how London got its first LGBTQ+ retirement c
The idea is nothing new in other countries, but the UK has been slow to develop housing schemes for older LGBTQ+ people. Now it’s becoming apparent how many people want or need it
When the clocks struck midnight on new year’s eve and rang in 2023, Steve Busby was on the rooftop of a fancy apartment block in central London watching fireworks light up the Thames. The weeks leading up to Christmas had been a heady mix of meals, drinks, celebrations and friends, most of whom live in the same building of luxurious flats overlooking Westminster, a stone’s throw from Vauxhall, Waterloo and Tate Britain. Not exactly your average retirement home, then – and indeed Busby, a 72-year-old gay man, would never have considered moving to one of those. “What would I do? Risk coming out, or lie about who I am? I knew I could never do it.”
Busby spent his working life running a business selling handmade silk ties all over the world, but “retirement saw my world change – it was isolating,” he says. Having never married or had children, he had been alone for a few years when the pandemic stopped him from even seeing friends. “It was dreadful,” he says. “Then a friend told me about Tonic. I came to an open day, saw the facilities and the flat, and I knew I wanted to move in and stay here for the rest of my life.”
Tonic Housing is the UK’s first LGBTQ+ affirmative retirement community run by and for the community. As well as the roof garden with riverside views, the building – designed by Norman Foster – has a lounge, floating garden, cafe, restaurant and roof bar, too. Since its first resident moved in a year ago, five of the 19 units are now occupied, and three more retirees are moving in this month. “It’ll take a little time for word to spread and numbers to grow,” says Bob Green, Tonic’s head of operations, “but the demand is evident.” Research conducted by Tonic found that of 624 LGBTQ+ Londoners aged over 50 surveyed, only 1% would consider moving to a general retirement scheme; but more than half would be interested in LGBTQ+ specific provision. And while in this country the idea still feels novel (the New Larchwood in Brighton offers some LGBTQ+ affirmative accommodation, and there are plans for a similar project in Manchester, but there is not much else), in other parts of in the world, retirement communities like these are nothing new. The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Germany, the US and Canada already have similar housing options. In the UK, the team hopes it won’t be long before they expand beyond the capital.
READ THE REST OF THIS VERY LONG AND - ER - INTERESTING BUT OUTRAGROUSLY EXPENSIVE SCHEME HERE
JOHN BELLAMY COMMENTS
If you read this very long winded article - it eventually tells you the prices -
While certainly less expensive than comparable commercially available units, living here does still come with a high price tag. The cheapest one-bedroom apartment is £535,000, with the biggest two-beds approaching £800,000. The older persons’ shared ownership scheme does have financial benefits: buyers purchase a share in the property, up to 75%, with Tonic holding on to the rest of the equity. And while Tonic does charge rent on their share, the first 25% of their share is always rent free. At future locations, Kear says, provision for other types of rental and ownership structures will be a priority.
and sorry, but tis is just another money making scheme aimed at the LGBT community because many have money but this is not aimed at the vast majority of LGBT at all and is actually aimed at a very VERY small portion of the community and at these prices, and from experience of being the first in the UK to offer COMMUNITY LIVING FOR GAY MEN - it astounds that they think this will be taken up fully at these prices.
I don't care that it's in London - this is expensive and you only own 75% and still pay rent, insurance, maintenance, ground rent and sadly, we all know this will be dominated by the L side of the LGBT world, as that's the way things seem to be.
Many moons ago a guy bought a chateau in France and was trying to do much the same thing but failed hopelessly as he didn't have the money to do the place up and expected all those wanting to live there to fork out tens of thousands to re vamp, and it never got off the ground.
Too many have the good idea but not the money to back it up.
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