The affordable housing development currently under construction at 55 Laguna Street, on the former UC Berkeley Extension campus between Market Street and Haight, is being co-developed by a non-profit that helps find housing and services for LGBT senior citizens, and has been billed as the nation's largest LGBT-oriented affordable housing development. It is near enough to the Castro, will ultimately have 119 units, and will provide essential, safe housing for aging LGBT residents. However only 40 units are coming online by next year, and as the Chronicle reports, it's now only being called an "LGBT-welcoming" community, and it turns out that no preference for LGBT people will given in the city housing lottery from which the complex's residents will be chosen.
Admittance into the city's housing lottery is made through age and income alone, and while a development can sort for seniors (or in this case all those 55 or older with a household income at or below 50% of Area Median Income), they can't legally give any other preference to applicants if they're using government funds in the construction. The city does, however, give preference to people evicted under the Ellis Act.
Where this leaves Seth Kilbourn from the non-profit Openhouse is in an awkward position he's hosting workshops for LGBT seniors, educating them on how to apply for the lottery, but all he can do is try to stack the deck for 55 Laguna with as many LGBT applicants as possible, knowing that the majority of the applicants are going to come from the city's general applicant pool. To put this in depressing perspective, there were 5,349 applicants for 69 affordable units recently constructed at 280 Beale Street, and 5,534 applicants for a 45-unit complex at 1100 Ocean Avenue.
As Openhouse explains, "As older adults, many LGBT seniors feel pressure to go back into the closet to receive quality care and housing. Many face serious challenges in finding welcoming and affordable housing and must relocate, leaving their cherished city and dear friends behind." Thus they feel 55 Laguna will serve an important purpose for the community, and they can only subtly discourage others from applying by saying, "We anticipate that a large number of LGBT seniors will apply to live at 55 Laguna, with its inviting, safe and welcoming housing, services and community programs."
So will the nation's first and largest, affordable, "LGBT-welcoming" housing complex have more than the statistically few LGBT residents who get in through the random lottery? It only will if Openhouse and Supervisor Scott Wiener succeed in getting the word out and getting far more qualified LGBT applicants than straight ones.