True affordability means keeping rents in the city down for everybody. An effort to help Capitol Hill Housing shape “Seattle’s first LGBTQ-affirming affordable senior housing development” at 14th and Union will take another step forward next week with a Community Visioning Workshop.
“We’ve heard consistently from the community about the need for a place where LGBTQ elders in the community could age,” said Ashwin Warrior, Capitol Hill Housing spokesperson. “LGBTQ seniors were also named a priority population for the 2016 Housing Levy which adds extra impetus to the efforts.”
Capitol Hill Housing plans to use the land currently home to a parking lot and upgrade its Helen V Apartments along E Union to create affordable housing for 55-and-up who identify as LGBTQIA+.
“Really the best way to find out what ought to be different is to ask folks what they need,” Warrior said. Warrior said the community design meeting will offer an opportunity for neighbors and potential future residents “to weigh in on what elements they think are important in a building like this.”
Previously, CHH interviewed residents from its other buildings and talked with people from Bailey-Boushay House, the E Madison facility that provides care for people with HIV, AIDS and other terminal diseases. It also held a community meeting in September to launch the project.
“We’re looking for deeper partnerships and greater engagement with the community around this project,” Warrior said. “The energy and enthusiasm for it has been phenomenal. We think there’s a unique opportunity to really catalyze the conversation around LGBTQ elders and health, as well as the health of the whole neighborhood. It definitely aligns with our goals as a community developer.”
But this, and other in-the-works Capitol Hill Housing projects face a challenge. Tax cuts will mean a new landscape for nonprofit developers and some bedrock like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program which was planned to play a large role in the development will be eroded.
The project is worth a search for new funding solutions. Gay and trans people face extraordinary challenges as they age. One UW study shows disproportionate health impacts particularly on older LGBTQIA+ populations. The health disparity is more striking with the community as they age because the LGBTQIA+ community is measurably social and supportive. But as they age and become more physically limited or some pass away, once active LGBTQIA+ people can become isolated. In addition, the level of support varies regionally as each area has different stigmas and political affiliations, according to Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, the study’s principal investigator.
Meanwhile, King County’s elderly LGBTQIA+ population is expected to double by 2030.
With the population boom coming, there is also another time pressure on the project. CHH’s Helen V Apartments are exiting the 15-year tax credit compliance period, which gives CHH full ownership. Redevelopment can only happen after exiting, during which the organization will simultaneously upgrade the existing apartments.
The LGBTQIA+ affirmative housing project is expected to have a price tag somewhere around $25 million. CHH is planning for a contract rezone to build to seven stories with first floor retail and up to 66 permanently affordable apartments. The plan for the new affordable housing is for residents making 50% Area Median Income or lower — roughly $33,000 a year or less for an individual. The architect on the project is 15th Ave E-based is Environmental Works. An informal advisory committee also brainstorms with the housing group on how to engage the community. Some groups on the committee include Bailey-Boushay House, Gay City, Generations Aging with Pride, King County HIV/AIDS Planning Council, POCAAN/People of Color Against AIDS Network and Virginia Mason Hospital.
Capitol Hill Housing is also talking with different medical providers about the best way to address health needs. There haven’t been any decisions yet but this could mean a health-oriented retail space or a partnership-based model where providers come on site.
The building itself will also be built to suit its future residents. Door frames will likely be wider, there will be grip bars, elevators, wayfinding, and the layouts of units will be senior friendly.
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