If you love The Pride Center at Equality Park so much that you want to live there, you may soon get the chance to.
Almost four years ago, the City of Wilton Manors approached The Pride Center about working on affordable housing for LGBT seniors. Today, that project is one step closer to reality.
Last week, The Pride Center and Carrfour Supportive Housing announced their joint undertaking: The Residences at Equality Park — a housing option not just for seniors, but with services and support specifically for LGBT seniors.
The Pride Center’s CEO Robert Boo said the community has been looking for this option for a long time.
“There’s been community dialogue for years talking about the need for senior affordable housing,” Boo said. “People throughout the county are isolated because they don’t want to go into any type of assisted living or independent living because they’ll have to go back into the closet.”
This housing project is the first of its kind in Florida that is specifically geared toward LGBT seniors. Nationally, there is a growing trend of affordable housing being built in conjunction with LGBT community centers. Other cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia are also taking on similar projects.
According to the LGBT+ National Aging Research Center, 2.7 million adults aged 50 and older identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the U.S. That number is expected to nearly double by 2060. Among the biggest issues among LGBT seniors is limited access to health and support services.
Stephanie Berman, president and CEO of Carrfour Supportive Housing, said The Residences at Equality Park will offer a multitude of services specifically geared toward LGBT seniors.
“For the disabling conditions, there will be on-site supportive services like case management, healthcare navigation services and other safety net services,” she said. “If there’s an issue for insurance or access to healthcare, there will be someone to help navigate those services.”
With some illnesses being ignored due to stigma or fear of discrimination, many LGBT seniors don’t address health concerns that could be debilitating.
“We see it in other senior populations. It’s very easy for one little thing to happen that could have been so easy to fix,” Berman said. “Sometimes those things that start out as relatively small start spiraling to other problems.”
Carrfour Supportive Housing is Florida’s largest nonprofit affordable housing developer that has been serving Miami-Dade for 23 years. This is their first venture into Broward as well as their first LGBT senior-specific project.
The project will have two phases: the first will include 48 apartments with a mix of studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom units. Of those, 34 apartments will be designed for low-income seniors living with disabling conditions, like physical illnesses or disabilities due to complications from HIV/AIDS. The other 14 units will be low-income housing for seniors earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income, around $35,000 a year. According to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, rents range from $381 for a studio to $979 for a 2-bedroom, depending on the tenant’s income.
Construction is set to break ground in late 2017. The second phase, which could include as many as 74 more units, doesn’t have a finalized date yet.
Robert Boo said that since there was so much community support for this project, The Pride Center transformed their Master Plan to include affordable senior housing.
“We were looking at what we needed to do in 5, 10, and 20 years. Senior affordable housing scored the highest,” he said. “The Residences at Equality Park, coupled with The Pride Center’s ever-growing seniors programming – the largest LGBT seniors program in the nation – will help give these residents a permanent and safe place to live along with the supportive services they need to stay there.”
According to Boo, Carrfour and The Pride Center will share net proceeds for the next 65 years. “We wanted to make sure there was annual income that the center would benefit from for a very long time.”
On the Equality Park campus, The Residences will be built along Dixie Highway. Eventually, the current parking lot will be replaced with housing and within that, structured parking, Boo said. Plus, the setup will put future residents closer to the surrounding amenities, like grocery shopping, doctors’ offices, and other convenient services. The more benefits that seniors have access to, the better.
“Stereotypically, that generation is not as accepting of the LGBT community, so people are staying in their apartments longer than they should,” Boo said. “So if we can provide that safe environment where seniors and allies can cohabitate and they can safely get to amenities and other sister organizations that provide supportive programs, it’s a great opportunity!”
Carrfour will serve as the project’s developer, operator, and service coordinator. For The Pride Center’s part, they’ll be able to provide residents with supportive services, like healthcare navigation and coordination, senior support groups, counseling and recreational activities.
The Center’s Senior Services Coordinator Bruce Williams said that during the weekly Coffee and Conversation gatherings, many LGBT seniors are already looking to move in.
“Everyone’s asking, ‘can I get on the list?’ The list isn’t even out yet! They’re ready to move in!” he laughed. “It’s so wonderful, LGBT seniors and seniors in general will have a central area that’s within walking distance of a drug store and a grocery store. That’s a big thing that everyone across the nation is finally catching on to.”
Williams said it’s not just about affordable housing options, but it gives seniors so much more in terms of overall well-being.
“They’ll have socialization and interactions with different generations and all walks of life,” he said. “It’ll help LGBT seniors to remain engaged and contribute to our wonderful society.”
Aside from The Residences at Equality Park, other developments in phase 1 include a new multi-use center, a new outdoor pavilion and a new boathouse café and picnic area, along with new parking structures.