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‘Seattle Rainbow Housing’ — Study shows affordability crisis hits LGBTQ seniors even harder

Capitol Hill Housing is planning LGBTQ and senior affordable housing at 14th and Union

A report commissioned by the city’s Office of Housing found that there are several key challenges facing seniors in Seattle’s LGBTQ community, including inadequate services, lack of stable affordable housing, and high rates of discrimination and bias in housing.

“We wanted to understand the LGBTQ senior housing and service needs in the local area, especially given how the cost of housing is increasing,” Karen Fredrisken Goldsen, a professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington, said. “Certainly there are concerns regarding the lack of housing affordability and accessibility in Seattle, King County.”

The report, led by Fredrisken Goldsen, found that Seattle “is falling behind other major metropolitan areas in addressing LGBTQ housing and senior needs.” Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco, California have invested millions of dollars to address the needs of LGBTQ older adults.

“With LGBT older adults, if they lose housing, it’s often difficult for them to secure new housing,” Fredrisken Goldsen said.

Fredrisken Goldsen discussed the “Seattle Rainbow Housing” study Tuesday night at the Broadway Market office of GenPride, a nonprofit formed to “develop and test multigenerational solutions to the challenges facing LGBTQ midlife and older adults.”

According to the study, among LGBTQ older adults who moved within the past year, 48.5% experienced homelessness, one-third dealt with an eviction, and 15.2% saw their housing foreclosed upon within the past five years.

The study also found that housing issues are only heightened for LGBTQ older adults. For example, whereas in King County 58% of renters over the age of 60 were housing cost burdened, 87% of LGBTQ older adults were housing cost burdened. Also, nearly 40% of LGBTQ older adults surveyed wanted to move, which is much higher than older adults that are not a sexual or gender minority. Furthermore, LGBTQ older adults in King County have higher rates of renting generally.

CHS reported in December 2017 on a project being worked on by Capitol Hill Housing at 14th and Union to bring a LGBTQ affordable housing development specifically for those who are 55-and-up:

Our preliminary plans include a mixed-use building on 14th and Union adjacent to the Helen V Apartments, which CHH has owned for 16 years. The initial concept includes between 44 and 66 affordable homes for low-income seniors 55 years or older and just under four thousand square feet of first-floor retail space. As part of the project, CHH will also be undertaking improvements and upgrades to the Helen V Apartments.

The project remains in the planning stages with CHH hosting meetings with an advisory committee, including leaders from LGBTQ and health organizations.

LGBTQ older adults are reportedly less likely to access available senior services because they are perceived not to be LGBTQ affirming, are too costly, or are not accessible.

Issues of housing and access to services were even worse for racial or ethnic minority LGBTQ older adults, according to the study.

“I’m visually impaired but I can see well enough to see there’s not many people of color in the room,” Ty Nolan, an LGBTQ elder, said at a December discussion on the affordable housing development.

Some of the topics and ideas from the December session on LGBTQ and senior housing:

The report poses an action plan with a number of recommendations to help alleviate the problems LGBTQ older adults face in the current housing climate in King County.

It recommends the establishment of a trusted LGBTQ affirming senior center built within the community to provide support in the form of housing modification programs and substance abuse counseling services, for example.

“We want to be able to figure out a way to give them the services that they need and that they deserve,” Fredriksen Goldsen, who worked on a similar study in San Francisco, said. “But it’s better to do it earlier rather than wait until a crisis.”

The report also advises “a community-wide awareness campaign on what constitutes discrimination and how to report it.” The researchers found that more than 80% of LGBTQ older adults did not report discrimination they had faced.

The study calls for a number of other awareness initiatives to be carried out to make clear the issues LGBTQ older adults face in housing, such as a LGBTQ equity housing training forum for housing providers and creating a resource guide on LGBTQ affirming housing for community use.

Fredrisken Goldsen stressed that the while report is a solid first step towards helping LGBTQ older adults in Seattle, the work must now be done to fulfill the recommendations of the study.

“We have the information, we know what the needs are,” she said. “Now it’s just a matter of commitment and advocacy to be able to address them.”


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Bruce Aleksander
Bruce Aleksander
3 years ago

I’m curious about the sampling methodology of the study. “According to the study, among LGBTQ older adults who moved within the past year, 48.5% experienced homelessness”
If true, this would be astounding. Without detracting from the report, but referencing my own personal experience as a part of the older gay community, I have difficulty accepting that half of the subset of LGBTQ older adults who moved experience homelessness.