Party Onward

Lavender Courtyard marks its first anniversary

By Rebecca Kuzins
February 2023

Cory Whetstone, 69, had a hard time finding affordable housing. At some apartment buildings, he recalls, there were “a lot of young people, people into drugs and other issues going on. When you mix seniors in that bunch, you have ready-made victims and predators.”

Whetstone is particularly vulnerable because he is a transgender male. LGBTQ people often suffer housing discrimination.

Last year, Whetstone moved into Lavender Courtyard, a low-income apartment building for LGBTQ seniors. His housing problems were over.

Located at 1616 F St., Lavender Courtyard has 53 apartments for people ages 62 and older. Residents pay affordable rents based on federal guidelines. The building is owned and operated by Mutual Housing California, a local company with affordable housing communities in Sacramento and Yolo counties.

“Mutual Housing has been a great blessing in my life,” Whetstone says.

Rita Sanchez says Mutual Housing solved her housing crisis. She was homeless for three years before a social worker helped her secure an apartment at Lavender Courtyard. Her best experience was simply “walking in my door.” Today she enjoys talking to neighbors.

Sanchez, Whetstone and other Lavender Courtyard residents gathered in the community room this summer to celebrate the building’s one-year anniversary. Almost 95% of the original residents still live in the building, with 301 prospective tenants on a waitlist.

Lavender Courtyard is one of a handful of apartment complexes designed for LGBTQ seniors. Similar communities operate in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and other large cities. Lavender Courtyard is the only senior gay housing complex not in a major metropolitan area.

“We hope this inspires more of these communities in places that need them,” says Steven Root, communications director for Mutual Housing.

The building has four stories, with apartments on the top three floors and laundry facilities on all four. The ground floor houses staff offices, a community room, courtyard and community garden where residents grow vegetables and flowers. Pets are allowed.

Mutual Housing partnered with SAGE, a national organization that provides advocacy and services for LGBTQ seniors, to build Lavender Courtyard. According to SAGE, LGBTQ seniors are twice as likely to be single and live alone than other seniors. They are four times less likely to have children, which means they often don’t have anyone to help with daily activities or provide care.

Lavender Courtyard staff helps residents with everyday challenges, such as transportation, medical needs, paying bills or even making sure their cell phones work. “We strive to be sensitive to everyone’s needs, keeping in mind the special concerns of seniors,” says Resident Coordinator Iyona Smith.

Lavender Courtyard cost $27 million to build. Money came from several sources, including a $2.5 million grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, a charitable organization that assists people experiencing poverty by providing housing grants.

The project received $1.9 million from the city’s Housing Trust and $11.3 million from the California Multifamily Housing Program. A $800,000 acquisition loan from NeighborWorks Capital purchased the land. NeighborWorks provides financing to nonprofit affordable housing developers.

The one-year anniversary party at Lavender Courtyard wasn’t much different than activities at other senior facilities. Residents enjoyed lunch and played bingo. But there was one thing particular to this building and its residents.

Suzette, a drag queen in thigh-high boots and skorts, read the bingo numbers.

Rebecca Kuzins can be reached at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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