A site that was once a symbol of discrimination has become Chicago’s first affordable housing development built with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors in mind.

The new Town Hall Apartments provides 79 affordable units in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the heart of the city’s LGBT community.

“It’s our mission to serve vulnerable, underserved populations,” says Michael Goldberg, executive director of Heartland Housing, the nonprofit developer behind the project.

His organization teamed with the Center on Halsted, one of the Midwest’s largest and most comprehensive community centers for the LGBT community, to build the development after nearly 10 years of research and work.

Town Hall Apartments makes Chicago the latest city to open an affordable housing development for LGBT seniors. Similar developments have recently opened in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.

“People are recognizing a need for this housing,” Goldberg says.

In Chicago, there are approximately 50,000 LGBT seniors, with about one in five of these seniors living in poverty, according to officials. Heartland Housing received more than 400 applications from people who wanted to live at Town Hall.

Despite growing acceptance, members of the LGBT community still face higher rates of housing discrimination than their straight peers. Heterosexual couples were favored over gay and lesbian couples 16 percent of the time, according to a 2013 Department of Housing and Urban Development study.

Adverse treatment was found primarily in the form of same-sex couples receiving fewer responses to e-mail inquiries for housing than heterosexual couples.

In addition to discrimination, elderly gays and lesbians often face isolation as they grow older, says Goldberg.

Town Hall Apartments is open to all seniors, but it’s known as being LGBT friendly.

The nearby Center on Halsted will offer services to seniors living in the building as well as expand and relocate its existing seniors program to the first floor of the new development.

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