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San Francisco welcomes first LGBT senior housing

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“In a city that is in some ways very youth-focused, it’s nice to have a home that’s specifically about seniors.”

Exterior of Openhouse’s buidling. Photo via Openhouse’s Facebook

As a dearth of affordable housing continues to plague San Francisco, the Mayor’s Office of Housing has partnered with Openhouse, a nonprofit LGBT organization, and Mercy Housing to develop affordable housing for queer San Francisco seniors.

Openhouse LGBT Senior Housing, Community, and Services celebrated the grand opening of an apartment complex billed as the country’s first housing geared toward the elderly LGBT community.

Mostly financed “with low income housing tax credits and with monies from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development,” according to a San Francisco Bay Times article by Marcy Adelman, co-founder of Openhouse, the residential development will be a hub for LGBT seniors.

“In a city that is in some ways very youth-focused, it’s nice to have a home that’s specifically about seniors,” says Dr. Karyn Skultety, executive director of Openhouse. “That’s specifically about seniors who led a particular civil rights movement from this city, in this city, who can stay in this city.”

Once a college building called Richardson Hall, the Openhouse complex is now comprised primarily of one-bedroom units, ranging from $821 to $1,146. The new space also houses the Bob Ross LGBT Senior Center, the city’s first space dedicated to the needs of the LGBT elder community.

As for who gets to call the place home. Openhouse used a lottery system with a seven-day application window, open to citizens who are 55 years and older, whose income “does not exceed 50 perfect of Area Median Income (AMI).”

For individuals that’s roughly $40,000/annually, and for couples, $46,000, according to the Area Median Income (AMI) for HUD Metro Fair Market Rent Area (HMFA).

Senior Development Officer Gayle Roberts shows off some of the restored building artwork.
Senior Development Officer Gayle Roberts shows off some of the restored building artwork.
Photo via Openhouse’s Facebook page

While the complex does not solely house LGBT seniors, seventy percent of the residents are LGBT seniors. Other units are reserved for people living with HIV or for residents at risk of homelessness.

There was also a higher preference placed on neighborhood location, according to Skultety, where 40 percent of the LGBT housing population must come from nearby neighborhoods.

“A lot of the work that we do is about bringing people together [and] what better way to be together than to live in an LGBT-welcoming environment where your support system becomes your neighbors and other people who live in the building,” says Skultety.

In August, Openhouse will break ground to add an additional 79 units and 7,000 square feet of program space.