It was just over two years ago that the John C. Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia celebrated its grand opening, with confetti and rainbows.
Today, the LGBT friendly apartments for seniors have been a roaring success with hundreds of people on a waiting list.
“We've done very little about our seniors,” Mark Segal said. “Many of the seniors who fought for all those issues are being moved out of various gayborhoods because they can’t afford the rent, and many of them are being forced into homes which aren’t gay friendly. Therefore they’re being forced into the closet or being verbally or physically abused in some of these affordable buildings.”
“It’s time for the LGBT community to step up and do what it’s supposed to do help the members of its community.”
Segal is the president of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which partnered with Pennrose Properties to make the building happen. He is also the editor of Philadelphia Gay News and was a gay rights activist in the ‘70s.
Open to seniors 62 years old and older, the LGBT friendly apartment building has 57 one-bedroom units, as well as a community room, outdoor patio, events and services for residents, and more. Rent starts at $633 a month, a steal for Center City Philadelphia (home to the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, the Franklin Institute, and other places of note).
The apartment is home to people of different races, and “we even have a few of those people called heterosexuals living there,” Segal joked.
There are more than 300 people on a waiting list, leading to talks of possibly opening a second building.
The apartments are named for the late Philadelphia City Councilman John C. Anderson, who died at the age of 41 in 1983. An out political leader, he died after months of battling sarcoidosis, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Sarcoidosis is a respiratory disease that leads to the formation of nodules in the lungs.
Segal noted the importance of affordable housing for out seniors -- many who were out in the ‘60s and ‘70s were unable to get high paying or even decent jobs, as they were banned from many professions. He pointed out that many of the residents in the apartments were a part of the LGBT liberation movement.
Segal and others started throwing around the idea of LGBT friendly housing in the ‘90s, and after moving through the bureaucracy, planning, and building, the John C. Anderson Apartments opened in 2014.
Many were against opening an affordable housing building in the neighborhood, believing it would bring down property values, Segal said. Instead, it won the housing award in specialized housing from the American Institute of Architects last year and people are coming from out of state to move into the apartments.
Also, the courtyard has turned into a sort of community center, playing host to fundraisers and events. Many young LGBT people also come to the apartments to meet residents and participate in programs and cross-generational learning.
“It has rejuvenated the neighborhood, which is very surprising,” Segal said. “We’ve spurred the neighborhood into development … it’s been an overwhelming success.”