Last month, Capitol Hill Housing (CHH)
announced our plans to develop Seattle’s first
LGBTQ-affirming affordable senior housing, right here in Capitol Hill. For many, the announcement of a project like this feels long overdue. The community has been
sounding the alarm around this issue for years, and the need for affordable, LGBTQ-friendly housing is immense.
Thanks to research from Dr. Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen with the University of Washington and Generations Aging with Pride, today we have the clearest picture yet of the unique challenges facing LGBTQ seniors. Compared to their peers, LGBTQ seniors are more likely to live in poverty, be at higher risk for illness, and have less support of children or biological family. LGBTQ seniors often find themselves isolated in traditional retirement communities, and are frequently forced back into the closet to survive.
At a time when rising rents and rapid change threaten the neighborhood’s LGBTQ identity, projects in Capitol Hill that create a space to address these issues can’t wait.
For Capitol Hill Housing, responding to the emergent needs of the community is an essential part of our mission. For over 40 years, we have worked to build not
just affordable homes, but also vibrant and engaged communities. With this project, we have a unique opportunity to bring much-needed affordable housing to the neighborhood while also creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQ elders in our community to age in place.
Our plans are to develop this new housing at the southwest corner of 14th and Union. The initial concept calls for a seven-story building with up to 66 apartments affordable to individuals 55 years or older who make less than $33,000 a year. In accordance with fair housing laws, the building will be an LGBTQ-affirming community welcoming to all seniors, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The first floor will have space for local businesses or community groups that can help further the overall community vision. As part of the project, CHH will also make upgrades to the adjacent Helen V Apartments, a building we have owned for 16 years, and which offers an affordable home for low-income seniors and individuals with permanent disabilities.
This is the outline, but we need the community to help us fill it in. In September, we hosted a gathering at Gay City to convene the community around this issue.
Our work to engage the community is just beginning, and our efforts to incorporate the voices, stories, hopes, and aspirations of LGBTQ elders across our city will be ongoing.
So far, we’ve been honored to have the counsel of over a dozen leaders from community organizations and government entities to help start articulating what LGBTQ-affirming senior housing in Seattle could look like. Bailey-Boushay House, City of Seattle, Entre Hermanos, Gay City, Generations Aging with Pride, King County HIV/AIDS Planning Council, LGBTQ Allyship, Lifelong, POCAAN, Seattle Counseling Services, Seattle Foundation and Virginia Mason Hospital have all helped us look at how to leverage design, social programs and health interventions in the building to support aging LGBTQ community members. In this regard, we are not starting from scratch, and can look to successful projects like 55 Laguna in San Francisco or the Town Hall Apartments in Chicago for inspiration.
If all goes well, we hope to be able to begin construction in late 2018 and open in 2020. In the meantime, we hope this project will be a catalyst for conversation and greater action throughout the city.
We are mindful that this is just one small, albeit important, step in a larger movement to address the needs of LGBTQ elders in our community.
We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks and months. To be receive email updates on the project or to get more involved, please contact Ashwin Warrior