Construction Begins on San Diego’s First LGBT-affirming Senior Community

Community HousingWorks (CHW) and the San Diego LGBT Community Center (The Center) held a groundbreaking ceremony last week for the highly anticipated North Park Senior Apartments, San Diego’s first LGBT-friendly affordable senior housing community.

Speakers included Assemblymember Toni Atkins; City Councilmember Todd Gloria; Sue Reynolds, President and CEO of Community HousingWorks; Dr. Delores Jacobs, CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center; and several #LGBTseniors.

CHW is developing 76 senior apartment homes at the corner of Texas Street and Howard Avenue, just south of El Cajon Boulevard, in North Park. Construction on the $27.5 million community will take approximately 18 months, and residents should be able to move in by December 2017.

“Many of us do not have family to support us… we need this kind of housing,” said Robert Bettinger, an 87-year-old gay man who has been an outspoken advocate for #LGBTseniors in San Diego.

While one in five California seniors faces poverty, #LGBTseniors are especially vulnerable because they are more likely to be single, more likely to have lower incomes, less likely to have enough money saved for retirement, and less likely to have adequate family and social support networks. Many are forced back into the closet during their golden years due to a lack of acceptance among their peers and managers of senior housing apartments.

Bettinger, one of the speaker’s at today’s groundbreaking, was part of a grassroots working group at The Center that planted the seed to create a community that supports and affirms #LGBTSeniors almost a decade ago. The group more recently organized a study of the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors. Titled “LGBT San Diego’s Trailblazing Generation,” the study found that 23 percent of #LGBTseniors earn less than $20,000 a year and 68 percent have neither family nor younger friends they can count on for support or assistance.

Open to all seniors, the North Park Senior Apartments will provide an affirming and supportive community for #LGBTseniors, with supportive services provided on site. The community is a collaboration between nonprofit San Diego-based affordable housing developer Community HousingWorks and The Center.

“Many people are going to benefit from relief from isolation, depression, and anxiety and find that moments in their last days can be full of compassion and warmth,” Bettinger said. “I’m happy for the many people who will go forward in hope, safety and comfort.”

Sue Reynolds, President and CEO of Community HousingWorks, said the new community is one step toward meeting a tremendous need in the community.

“The Baby Boom generation has only just begun to retire, and seniors are especially vulnerable to poverty and isolation,” Reynolds said. “We expect this community to serve as a model for others in San Diego and to inspire similar LGBT-affirming developments in other cities.”

Outside of San Diego, there are four LGBT-affirming affordable communities for seniors: in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. A fifth is under construction in San Francisco.

“Our seniors form the very foundation this community has been built upon,” said Dr. Delores Jacobs, CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center. “They led us from the Stonewall riots through the most devastating years of the AIDS crisis to where we are today, yet their needs are often overlooked. These pioneers of the LGBT community deserve our respect, our support and, when necessary, our help. Providing a welcoming, supportive affordable place for our seniors to live is a fundamental way to show our gratitude.”

City Councilmember Todd Gloria said: “We have an obligation to take care of the trailblazing generation that bravely fought for the freedoms we all enjoy today. Ultimately, all senior housing community should be open and affirming to LGBT seniors, and all seniors who need an affordable home should be able to find one.”

North Park Senior Apartments is conveniently located in a walkable urban neighborhood with access to transit, employment, shopping centers, a park, a recreation center, and full-service grocery stores.

Consistent with CHW’s commitment to sustainability, the development will include a solar thermal system, water-saving fixtures, and energy-efficient building design. The community will also include indoor and outdoor social and recreational areas; a large community space for meetings, events, and services provided by The Center; and features like a second-story courtyard overlooking the neighborhood, a rose garden and a small park.

CHW received strong support from the North Park Planning Committee when it sought to entitle a mixed-income development with 194 apartments, including a 117-unit market-rate apartment complex across the street from the 76 at North Park Senior Apartments. The market-rate development will be constructed concurrently by Alliance Residential.

As with the rest of San Diego, rents have increased sharply in North Park and apartments are hard to find. Combined, North Park Seniors and the Alliance community will be the largest new construction in North Park in decades and will help address our region’s housing needs by providing both affordable housing and more market-rate supply.

Multiple public and private community partners came together in funding the $27.5 million North Park community. Here is a breakdown:

  •       Union Bank construction loan: $15 million, which reduces to a loan of $4.5 million
  •       US Bank: investor in low income housing tax credits for $11.2 million
  •       San Diego Housing Commission: $7 million loan
  •       CHW: $4.2 (equity and loan combined)
  •       FHLB-SF Affordable Housing Program sponsored by Torrey Pines Bank: $750,000
  •       Miscellaneous and refunds: $760,000

Frequently Asked Questions

Who will live at North Park Senior Apartments?

All applicants who meet the age requirements for 55+ senior housing and who qualify as earning equal to or less than 60% of the Area Median Income (1 person: $35,700 and $40,700 for 2 persons for 2016), as defined by guidelines issued annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the State of California, will be eligible to apply and will be treated equally without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity or any other protected class status or characteristic.

How much will rent be?

If the apartments were available today, the rents would range from $710 to $1,100. Rents and income restrictions are subject to change. HUD monitors the rental markets and sets the income limits for each county in the country and affordable rents are adjusted annually based on that data. An anticipated schedule of rents is listed below:

  •    Studio: $710 – $860
  •    1-bedroom: $760 – $915
  •    2-bedroom: $905 – $1,100

When and how can individuals apply?

The formal selection process will begin when the Interest List opens in May, 2017. You will need to be registered on the Interest List in order to secure an opportunity to submit an application in 2017. There will be public information sessions in September/October 2016 and the February/March 2017. More information on the income qualifications, application and selection process will be forthcoming in September, concurrent with the community information session, which will be announced in advance.