Should the city allocate funds for affordable housing for seniors on the campus of a popular LGBT community center that’s plagued by allegations of mismanagement?
Commissioner Julie Carson on June 26 requested the city earmark $200,000 for the nearly $15 million project proposed by Carrfour Supportive Housing Inc. to be built at The Pride Center at Equality Park, at 2040 N. Dixie Highway.
Carson told commissioners the county is expected to contribute $900,000 towards the project. She said Wilton Manors could allocate funds from its Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which contains $306,265.
“The city has never spent any money out of our trust fund,” Carson said. She asked that the commission consider allocating the funds at its next commission meeting. But recent controversy surrounding the Pride Center’s management has raised questions.
Parents whose children use the facility’s playground were outraged when they learned that a longtime janitor there was a registered sexual predator. Pride Center CEO Robert Boo was aware of the man’s past but allowed him to work there until a parent complained, setting off a firestorm. The man was terminated.
The Pride Center has also been criticized for leasing property to an unlicensed gym at 2036 N. Dixie Highway. The tenant, Challenge Fitness, has been cited for noise violations. The city can’t issue the gym a business license because the property isn’t mapped for commercial use. An attorney for the gym has said the issue is a technical matter that is being addressed.
Wilton Manors Commissioner D. Scott Newton said he needed more information on the affordable housing project before moving forward.
“I am not going to just give $200,000 without seeing some type of plans that have some type of stipulations on them,” Newton said. “They have a gym right now that is actually working without a business license so there are some problems … that need to be straightened out. We don’t want something else when you're not even conforming to the city laws now.”
Carrfour has been building affordable housing in Florida since 1993 and currently oversees more than 1,700 housing units in Miami-Dade County. The proposed project at the Pride Center would be its first in Broward County, said Roberta Moore, director of community services for Wilton Manors.
The Carrfour proposal includes 48 affordable senior housing units, of which 34 would be set aside as housing for disabled seniors. All units would be affordable and available to adults age 55 or older, according to a letter from attorney David J. Coviello.
- The 48-unit, four-story building would be constructed on 5.16 acres on the northwest corner of the property, with parking.
- Units would include a mix of studio, one-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments of varying sizes.
- The project would include a clubroom, a library/computer room, a gym, laundry and an administrative office.
- The main lobby would physically connect with the main Pride Center building.
- The development would be managed by Crossroads Management LLC.
An integral part of the Pride Center’s services and activities are offered to seniors, including its weekly Coffee and Conversation events with over 200 LGBT seniors attending wellness workshops, exercise classes and job skills courses. The addition of a senior living component to the Pride Center is a logical next step in progression, according to Coviello’s letter.
The project will include low-income housing tax credits from Florida Housing Finance Corporation, already secured by Carrfour.
Information gathered from seniors who use Pride Center services indicates LGBT adults face higher rates of discrimination in securing housing and “encounter bias and sometimes hostile treatment from landlords as well as fellow tenants,” Coviello’s letter states.
“This Project attempts to address some of those challenges,” Coviello said.