Architects and Capitol Hill Housing representatives have showcased plans for an eight-story affordable housing project specifically for LGBTQ+ elders on Broadway between Pike and Pine that will include at least 100 units at a mix of income levels rising above the preserved facade of an auto row-era Seattle landmark.
The project was originally planned to be located on their property at 14th and Union, but the location was shifted to Broadway partly due to influence from the city, according to Chris Persons, CEO of Capitol Hill Housing, the nonprofit developer at the center of the effort. He says the new spot is “much more in the center of the LGBTQ+ community on Capitol Hill.”
“This building is going to really make a mark,” Freya Johnson, project architect at Environmental Works, said Wednesday night during a community meeting at The Summit on Pike. “It’ll be a symbol that we belong here, that this is our Hill.”
One attendee said later: “In my lifetime, I didn’t think I’d see this.”
Envisioned as a building to make more than a hundred new homes available especially for LGBTQ seniors, The Eldridge affordable housing project could be developed as one fo the first “community preference” developments in Seattle — a new program that encourages nonprofit developers receiving city money to offer a portion of their affordable units to communities with ties to the neighborhood, particularly those with a high risk of displacement.”
The planned building will take up two parcels: the now vacant Atlas Clothing location and the landmarked auto row-era Eldridge Tire Company building which currently houses Tacos Guaymas and Folicle Hair Design. Because of the landmark designation, the new building will keep the old Mission Revival-styled structure’s facade while preservation incentives could help boost the project’s size.
Current targets for the building include between 100 and 122 units of housing, according to Mason Cavell of CHH. Those units will be at a range of affordability levels and about 80% of them are set to be studios and the rest would be one bedroom apartments. For example, the rent for a studio apartment for someone at 30% area median income would be $581, says Cavell.
CHH is working to secure set-aside nits with rental assistance, as well.
Studios would be about 350 square feet and the one bedroom apartments would be approximately 550 square feet, according to Johnson.
These goals, however, remain in the early stages, with a fully constructed building still at least three years away. The organizations involved will submit a funding application to the city this fall. By spring 2020, they hope to get a green light from the city and finalize the building design. That autumn, they would close on financing and begin building with a target completion date two years later.
They hope to achieve full occupancy by the winter of 2022.
This project, led by CHH and Generations Aging with Pride (GenPRIDE), will be worked on in conjunction with a community advisory team of more than a half dozen LGBTQ+ organizations: Ingersoll Gender Center, Seattle Counseling Service, UW Aging with Pride, Gay City, GSBA, LGBTQ Allyship, POCAAN, and County Doctor Community Clinic.
Gay City, for example, would look to bring sexual health services, such as tests for sexually transmitted infections, to the new building along with possible book groups reading from the organization’s large LGBT lending library, according to its executive director, Fred Swanson.
Current plans include rooms on the first floor for Seattle Counseling Service, which aims to advance the health and wellness of the LGBTQ+ community.
GenPride, a nonprofit “focused on empowering older LGBTQ+ adults to live with pride and dignity,” has also signed on to be the “ground floor tenant” of the Broadway project. GenPRIDE “promotes, connects, and develops innovative programs and services that enhance belonging and support, eliminate discrimination, and honor the lives of older members of the LGBTQ+ community,” CHH said.
CHS reported in July on the shift from 14th and Union to the Broadway property for Capitol Hill’s LGBTQ senior-focused project.
The Eldridge project will neighbor Capitol Hill Housing’s Broadway Crossing affordable housing development. CHS wrote about the community push that helped create that development here last year.
Meanwhile, Capitol Hill Housing says it is also pushing ahead with a plan for a homeless youth center and housing project at Broadway at Pine.
The Eldridge’s block also includes the home to longtime gay dance club Neighbours — a venue that has been around long enough that more than a few senior residents will have fond memories of the dance joint. The club’s future might be a bigger question as the property hit the real estate market to start the year.
A focal point of Wednesday’s session was safety for the senior occupants of the building. Attendees suggested, among other things, security cameras in common areas, secure access to the building, a concierge, and a buddy system for both companionship and safety.
A report from last year 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, as CHS reported in October.
The study said 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.
According to the report, among LGBTQ+ older adults who moved within the previous 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 58% of King County renters over the age of 60 were housing cost burdened, 87% of LGBTQ+ older adults dealt with that burden. Nearly 40% of LGBTQ+ older adults surveyed also 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.
Issues of housing and access to services were even worse for racial or ethnic minority LGBTQ+ older adults, as well, according to the study.
“Not only do we have a crisis, a public health crisis, in housing, we also have a public health crisis of social isolation” for LGBTQ+ elders, said Karen Fredriksen Goldsen, a professor in the University of Washington’s School of Social Work who spearheaded the report.
She added: “We have the history and years of experience, but our talents are being wasted. It’s our turn. Count us in.”
You can learn more about “LGBTQ-Affirming Affordable Senior Housing” at capitolhillhousing.org.
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