The Montrose Center says it will soon construction on the nation’s second-largest LGBTQ-affirming housing project for low-income seniors.
After securing $13.8 million in federal housing subsidies, which will cover more than half the cost of the project, the Center plans to host a groundbreaking at 2222 Cleburne Street in the near future.
With 112 independent living units spread across two main four-story buildings, the facility will be the first LGBTQ-affirming housing complex for low-income seniors in the Southwest. It is tentatively scheduled to open in the summer of 2020.
“We have been working on this project for five years, and it is very rewarding that we are able to put all the pieces together in order to serve seniors with a comprehensive program that includes housing,” said Montrose Center Executive Director Ann Robison.
The facility is designed to alleviate the problem of housing discrimination against LGBTQ seniors, a demographic that is expected to triple in size—to more than 7 million—by 2030. According to the national nonprofit SAGE, 48 percent of older same-sex couples have experienced housing discrimination, and one-third of LGBTQ seniors live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Many of them are being priced out of LGBTQ-affirming neighborhoods.
“Culturally competent housing options for our LGBTQ seniors is a problem in Houston, and a facility of this kind is long overdue,” said Brittany Burch, coordinator of the Montrose Center’s LIFE Counseling Program. “We are so grateful to all the community members who are contributing to make this happen.”
In addition to federal subsidies, the center has raised more than $3 million from the community. And it will continue to raise money for the senior housing project through its “There’s No Place Like Home” campaign, co-chaired by former Mayor Annise Parker and state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.
The city of Houston kicked in $2.5 million in Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) funds for the facility, and the Midtown Redevelopment Authority donated the 2.87-acre lot, valued at more than $3.26 million.
The final major fundraising hurdle was cleared earlier this month, when the Center secured a letter of commitment for federal low-income housing tax credits, following a three-year process in partnership with the city. The project scored highest out of all applicants for the credits in Region 6, and the subsidies would not have been possible without the local contributions.
In addition to one- and two-bedroom apartments, the facility will house the Montrose Center’s growing Seniors Preparing for Rainbow Years (SPRY) Program.
“I am continually moved by the history that our SPRY seniors share and what they have gone through to establish Houston’s queer community as one of the best in the nation,” Montrose Center Development Director Kennedy Loftin said. “They deserve a place to call home.”
The facility will be about a mile-and-a-half east of the Montrose Center, in the historic Third Ward.
The outside staircases of the two buildings will be covered in mesh bearing the colors of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow. Additional features will include a primary-care clinic, a group dining area, meeting and game rooms, a fitness center, a dog park, a vegetable garden and outdoor recreational spaces.
Two Metro bus lines have stops across the street from the north end of the facility, and MetroRail’s planned University Line would include a station on the complex’s west side.
“It will be so nice to actually have a place large enough for the needs of our seniors,” said Fred Reninger, manager of the Center’s SPRY Montrose Diner. “The new home for SPRY will be bigger, all in one place, and will include hiring more staff so that we can serve more people. Transportation is such a struggle for our seniors, and having more than 100 seniors on site will be incredible.”
The Center will begin accepting applications three months before the facility opens. Applicants must be 62 years of age or older, and rates will be on a sliding scale, with rent being no more than 30 percent of residents’ income.
Pioneering gay activist Ray Hill, a senior who has struggled to afford housing in recent years, says he is looking forward to moving into the facility when the doors open.
“The whole concept of senior citizens having a safe place to live is a very good idea,” Hill said. “It’s a nice thing to live with one’s peers.”