The City’s first and the country’s largest affordable housing specifically welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors to be developed by Openhouse and Mercy Housing California was approved unanimously Thursday by the San Francisco Planning Commission. The development includes 110 apartments for low-income seniors, Openhouse service offices and an activity center for residents and LGBT seniors from across the City. Over 25,000 LGBT seniors live in San Francisco alone, many of whom do not access senior services and housing for fear of rejection and compromised care.
“The 55 Laguna development addresses a critical need for LGBT seniors, who face enormous challenges in finding welcoming and affordable housing,” said Kilbourn. “For decades, thousands of LGBT people have come to San Francisco to find personal freedom and acceptance. As older adults with increasing needs, the pioneers of this migration are being forced back into the closet in order to receive the quality care and housing they need. They are being forced to relocate and leave dear friends behind. 55 Laguna will be a critical community resource to help LGBT seniors age with dignity and grace in the City they call home.”
Research is clear that LGBT seniors are less likely to participate in general community activities and access the services and housing they need, because they fear judgment, rejection or compromised care. As a result, LGBT seniors often do not disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, or – at even greater risk to their health and well-being – remain isolated without access to appropriate housing and community services. Largely without children and family support, LGBT seniors rely on the community support and housing that Openhouse provides to help them address the unique challenges they face as they age.
The senior housing, service space and activity center being developed jointly by Openhouse and Mercy Housing California is part of a larger development of the 5.8 acre former University of California Extension site, located at 55 Laguna St. The larger development includes 330 new multi-family rental units being developed by Wood Partners. Of the multi-family rentals, 50 will be available to low-income renters. The larger development also includes a new 28,000 square foot public park, a 10,000 square foot community garden and a new community center. The site, located in the heart of the Hayes Valley neighborhood between the historically LGBT Castro neighborhood and City Hall, is bounded by Laguna, Hermann, Buchanan and Haight Streets.
“The support from the neighborhood and the City has been fantastic,” said Ramie Dare, Housing Developer at Mercy Housing California. “We are very proud to be partnering with Openhouse in developing an affordable housing community that will be specifically welcoming to LGBT seniors. With the additional 50 units of family housing available to low-income renters, the 55 Laguna development significantly contributes to San Francisco’s affordable housing goals.”
With Planning Commission approval now secured, Openhouse and Mercy Housing California will work to put in place the local, state and federal financing needed to construct the housing. Openhouse will undertake additional fundraising efforts to build its service offices and the activity center. Wood Partners plans to break ground on the larger project in early 2013. Construction of the senior housing is expected in late 2014.
“After a decade of effort working with the Mayor’s Office of Housing, community leaders, affordable housing advocates, neighborhood groups and consumers we have achieved the crucial green light we need to move forward with this historic, first-of-its-kind development in San Francisco,” said Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn. “The housing, service space and activity center will provide an efficient, cost-effective and easily accessible community hub for residents and LGBT seniors who live throughout the City and the Bay Area.”
Renderings of the entire development can be viewed at http://openhouse-sf.org/55-laguna-siteplan/