ALRP ED Presents at Hearing on LGBT Senior Housing Needs
ALRP Executive Director Bill Hirsh discusses obstacles limiting affordable housing for LGBT and HIV+ residents.Reprinted from the Bay Area Reporter:
Obstacles Limit Affordable Housing
by Matthew S. Bajko
With rents and housing prices skyrocketing in San Francisco, the issue of affordable housing is once again at the forefront.
It is of particular concern for LGBT residents who are reaching their senior years or have lived with HIV/AIDS longer than they had imagined they would. Many older LGBT residents do not have family to rely on in their retirement years, or for people living with HIV/AIDS, they did not think they would live long enough to need to financially plan for their golden years.
In the Castro in particular, many LGBT adults living in rent-controlled units are now being evicted when their building sells and the new owners want to move in.
“We have seen Ellis Act evictions increase by owner move-in. Those kind of evictions definitely are on the rise,” AIDS Legal Referral Panel Executive Director Bill Hirsh testified this week during a special hearing on the housing needs of LGBT seniors.
He noted that many HIV-positive people have used long-term disability policies to assist them in paying their rents. But those policies often include age cap clauses that go into effect when a person turns 61 or 62, noted Hirsh.
“People who didn’t think they would live that long or didn’t plan for the future are now at risk of losing their home,” warned Hirsh.
Or they are now finding it difficult to live in high-rise buildings with decades-old elevators that can be out of service for weeks at a time. With few options to relocate, they are stuck in place.
“I am grateful for my apartment but I feel closed in,” said Jon-Edmond Abraham, 62, who lives on the fourth floor of a building whose elevator was not working for 10 days.
At the opposite end of the age spectrum, many younger LGBTs are finding it unaffordable to own a home or rent an apartment in the Castro, which has been a welcoming gayborhood since the 1970s. Homeless LGBT youth also find little housing options for them in the gay district.
“One thing that has kept the Castro queer is one generation dies and a younger generation moves in. Then the dot-com boom stopped that; young people can’t afford to live in the Castro unless they work in the dot-com industry,” said queer housing rights activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who serves on the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force and convened the housing hearing this week as part of the panel’s work. “They are moving to the Tenderloin or Oakland. Oakland is becoming more and more a place where young queers are living.”