Pride Center Responds to Criticism to Affordable Housing Project

Pride Center CEO Robert Boo has responded to criticism by Sal Torre, president of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors. In his Aug. 2 article, which appeared in The Wilton Manors Gazette, Torre said that The Pride Center has been too secretive about its proposed affordable housing project.

“So, what’s the big secret? Why all the hush hush? Well, it looks like the much-trumpeted LGBT Senior Housing Project that the Pride Center rolled out to much fanfare might be nothing more than a low-income housing project coming to a street near you.”

Boo, citing multiple public meetings and outreach, rejected Torre’s statement that The Pride Center has been secretive about the process.

“We’ve never been secretive about this project. We’ve talked about this project consistently for the past few years to anyone who will listen. We’ve included it in every issue of our VOICE newsletter since 2015, including two front-page articles last year—both appearing in SFGN. We gave interviews to every local publication a year ago when the initial funding was announced. I’ve made presentations to local neighborhood associations,” Boo’s letter to the editor reads. “Our Board of Directors has welcomed guests from the neighborhood associations to our open monthly meetings. I’ve spoken about it four times at our monthly Founders circle receptions over the past year. I announced it at last year’s Diversity Honors. I give face-to-face updates on the project to our Seniors every month or so on Tuesday mornings. We remain in regular communication with The City of Wilton Manors.”

According to Boo, the goal is to build 120 to 130 units. The project would be built in phases – 48 units for Phase I and 70 to 80 units for Phase II. Torre also raised the possibility that the project might not be for seniors alone and suggested it might be opened to homeless individuals.

“Now don’t get me wrong, as a community, we need to address issues such as affordable housing, low-income housing, housing for those in need of supportive services such as the homeless, those with substance abuse issues, those with mental health issues, and so many more. If these are the goals of the Pride Center and its partner Carrfour, then they need to come clean to the community they serve and not sugar-coat reality by masking this project as much needed affordable housing for LGBT seniors,” wrote Torre, who asked if the project would be for 55 and older or 62 and older.

“This might seem like a minor issue dealing with age, but the distinction under Federal guidelines is huge. In a 55 and over community, only 80 percent of the units are restricted to having just one person 55 years or older living in them. That leaves the other 20 percent of the units unrestricted and open to all, along with the 80 percent open to anyone as long as one of the residents is 55 years and older,” continued Torre.

Boo though rejected Torre’s claims: “Every single unit is for Seniors; no one under 55 can live in The Residences. In addition, 70 percent of these units (34) are designated for seniors living with disabling conditions, such as physical illnesses or disabilities due to complications from HIV/AIDS. These Seniors must be able to live independently, but will benefit from the array of services available on campus. According to a recent survey by the Institute for Multigenerational Health, 47 percent of LGBTQ seniors in the U.S. are currently living with a disabling condition. This is the personal reality we face every Tuesday morning when over 200 Seniors gather in our main hall for Coffee and Conversation.”

Boo also addressed Torre’s other concerns about traffic, the density of the project on the 5.5 acre site, and that the project would be a drain on city resources.

“The Residences at Equality Park also will pay impact fees to the City of Wilton Manors. Parks & Recreation will receive $976.51 per unit. Police will receive $91.50 per unit plus $61 per 1,000 square feet of non-residential space. Fire will receive $60 per unit plus $40 per 1,000 square feet of non-residential space. Of course, this affordable housing project would be exempt from the Affordable Housing Fee.”

“Will there be an increase in traffic on Dixie Highway?” asked Boo.

“The coming senior affordable housing project on our campus will undergo the same due diligence with The County and The City that any other project addresses—including a traffic assessment. Around 2,000 people use our campus daily. The addition of 48 residents now and 70 residents later won’t dramatically congest traffic patterns.” 

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