The AIDS Healthcare Foundation held a contentious press conference Tuesday for the local community to clarify details of their controversial housing project.
“You’ve had your field day with the hate speech,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF and founder of the Healthy Housing Foundation. “This is our platform. This is our press conference. We are here to answer questions, we are not here to get into a free for all.”
AHF plans to build a 15-story micro-apartment tower in downtown Fort Lauderdale to help resolve an affordable housing crisis in Broward, and a problem with homelessness in the local area, according to the development application.
Word of homeless people sparked community outcry, including in the upscale Rio Vista neighborhood across U.S. Route 1. The Rio Vista Civic Association board unanimously voted to oppose the project.
“There can be sexual predators walking around Rio Vista and Bethany Christian School!!” one opponent wrote in a mass email sent to other residents. “ … I see this as being a magnet to homeless people from all over the east coast and they could be arriving in caravans… what then?”
Weinstein said potential tenants would need to provide an ID and go through a background check, to screen out any convicted sex offenders or drug dealers.
Some people also worried the project would only be for those living with HIV.
“The purpose of this project is to provide housing to low income people regardless of who those low income people are,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein said there is no legal way to screen potential tenants on the basis of an HIV diagnosis.
“This development is not for people living with HIV or AIDS,” AHF’s Michael Kahane said at a previous press conference for the housing project, The Sun Sentinel reported.
“The reason why we have chosen to do this here - in addition to the fact that we have such a large presence - is to demonstrate there is a need.” Weinstein said. “There’s been a huge issue that’s been identified with not only homelessness, but especially affordability. This is in many respects a low wage city. If you earn $900-plus on disability, you can afford to pay $400 in rent.”