Courtesy RenderingSan Francisco will provide $6.1 million to the Housing Trust Fund to assist in turning the empty lot at 55 Laguna Street into housing for LGBT seniors.

New housing fund gives life to Hayes Valley LGBT housing project

The long-stalled project to bring housing for low-income seniors to 55 Laguna St. in Hayes Valley received a boost when San Francisco announced it will provide $6.1 million from the newly created Housing Trust Fund.

The vacant 5.4-acre property is the former site of a UC Berkeley Extension campus, and for years several nonprofits have worked to build low-income housing there for LGBT seniors. A plan for the site fell apart in 2008 after the developer of the market-rate portion of the property went bankrupt.

Mayor Ed Lee’s office announced Friday that The City will steer funds to the project from the Housing Trust Fund, which voters approved in November to, in part, replace funds for affordable housing that went away when local redevelopment agencies were eliminated statewide.

Mercy Housing and Openhouse are the two nonprofits building the 110 units of low-income senior housing. Market-rate housing also will be included. Openhouse Executive Director Seth Kilbourn said the project is for all low-income seniors, but it will include features to ensure that LGBT residents have a safe environment. It will be the largest low-income housing site in the nation that is welcoming to LGBT seniors, Openhouse said.

According to Openhouse, more than 25,000 LGBT seniors live in San Francisco. Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the Laguna Street site, said LGBT seniors have unique needs, including that they are less likely to have adult children to help care for them. He also said LGBT seniors can face discrimination at care facilities because of their sexual orientation.

“I am delighted The City is committed to this project,” Kilbourn said.

He said the nonprofits will now be able to leverage the financial commitment from The City to help obtain federal funding and low-income tax credit financing. Construction could begin later next year, according to Doug Shoemaker, president of Mercy Housing.

A representative for Wood Partners, which is building the market-rate housing at the site, said a construction start date is pending, but it could begin in the middle of next year.

mbillings@sfexaminer.com

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