Donald Capoccia was on a bike ride during a vacation in New Mexico about a decade ago when he caught a glimpse of an affordable housing complex for LGBTQIA+ seniors. Capoccia, a managing principal at New York-based affordable housing developer BFC Partners, stopped his ride to take a closer look, captivated by the idea of the development.
“I immediately thought, ‘Why in the world do we not have this in New York?’” he said.
Capoccia, who is gay, became set on building something similar back home, he told Bisnow in an interview this month. Less than two years ago, his dream became a reality. BFC Partners delivered Stonewall House, a 145-unit, 17-story affordable housing building designed to cater to LGBTQIA+ seniors, on the northwest corner of Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, in December 2019.
Projects like Stonewall House provide housing for a cohort of seniors that have an especially hard time finding it. LGTBQIA+ seniors still face widespread housing discrimination, experts told Bisnow, despite the Biden administration’s updates to the Fair Housing Act, announced in February, which outlawed housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTQIA+ seniors are more likely than their straight, cisgender peers to be poor, have spotty employment histories and mental and physical ailments as a result of a life of trauma — most of which was lived while discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was legal and culturally accepted. Their vulnerability was only heightened last year, when the coronavirus pandemic put seniors at far greater risk of serious illness or death.
A third of LGBTQIA+ seniors live at or below 200% of the poverty line, in large part due to the employment discrimination they have experienced, according to a 2017 AARP report. In New York State, 21% of trans people reported being rejected from housing applications or kicked out solely on the basis of their gender identity, according to a Citizens Housing and Planning Council study released last week.
“Beyond overt discrimination, the process for applying for housing put some LGBTQIA+ communities at a systemic disadvantage — especially transgender people who may have legally changed their name, or people who turned to criminalized professions such as sex work when faced with employment discrimination,” Citizens Housing and Planning Council New York Executive Director Jessica Katz said.