Op-Ed: AHF’s Low Cost Housing Project A Humane Idea


This past summer, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation presented the greater Fort Lauderdale community with an initiative to address the low-income housing crisis in the city. 

Partnering with a coalition of nonprofit organizations, including the United Way, AHF announced plans to break ground on a residential campus for low-income residents in Fort Lauderdale. SFGN covered the story with a front-page feature because not every gay man lives in a beachside condo.

With numerous local community leaders present, the various agencies set out their vision for a housing complex which could advance solutions rather than hopelessness. 

The position of the South Florida Gay News is solid and certain. We stand squarely and firmly behind the proposal, which is a bold and collaborative initiative. 

As the Pride Center at Equality Park in Wilton Manors has demonstrated with its own initiative, there are those in our community in need of low cost housing, too. This is an LGBT issue we must own. We are a part of the community, not apart from it.

In the past month, however, angry neighbors are rising in opposition to AHF’s proposed 680-unit complex. It is the NIMBY Virus, infecting nearby residents – the “not in my backyard syndrome.” The objections, however, are based on false fears, not credible arguments. This is a humane and needed project which will enhance the reputation of our community.

Current statistics indicate that 789,000 Floridians spend more than half of their income on rent each month. You simply can’t survive that way. Our cities must be livable. We should embrace the opportunity to create a place where less wealthy residents find and secure clean and safe housing. 

The project is going up in an area near many other small apartments and office buildings, not far from the county courthouse. The complex will be within a stone’s throw of downtown Fort Lauderdale, accessible to public transportation and nightlife. It is NOT in the residential neighborhoods of Rio Vista.

For decades, the city of Fort Lauderdale has been regressive and repressive when caring for its poor and disenfranchised populations. This is a city where past mayors once asked our citizens to pour kerosene into garbage cans to kill off the homeless. It is time we changed directions. The AHF project gives us a chance to be pioneers. 

The affordable housing complex is designed to create small, livable housing units. If you are concerned about the growing tides of homeless gathering in urban communities, consider this a project which helps prevents hopelessness.

The downtown and centrally located venue for this undertaking will enable its residents to find scores of employment opportunities at the hundreds of nearby restaurants, hotels, and hospitality establishments pouring over on East Las Olas Boulevard and A1A. 

Not far from the city bus terminal and railroad, residents will have easy access to mass transit and those scooters popping up on every corner of downtown. There won’t be an overflow of parking. There will be an overflow of opportunity.

The Fort Lauderdale project has been developed by the Healthy Housing Foundation, which is an offshoot of AHF. It’s specifically targeted to assist low-income and chronically ill individuals, along with families, focusing on sustainable rental-to-ownership models. It’s a humane idea, creating a framework for other communities to follow.

AHF has been working to address the housing needs of the chronically ill for 30 years. A program like the Fort Lauderdale project was recently launched in Los Angeles as well. Years ago, AHF was in the forefront of advocating ADAP housing in Miami. Noble goals should be celebrated, not censured.  They are treading where others dare not dare.

Secure shelter provides sanity of the most fundamental sort. First, of course, is physical security from the storm. But having an affordable roof over your head, which you can call your own, keeps you motivated and healthy, gainfully employed, and off the streets. No matter how small, it gives you something you can call your own. It creates and fosters self-esteem. 

How many times have we all heard the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I…?”

How many people have you met that are a paycheck away from being broke, who can’t afford the most basic of necessities?

The city of Fort Lauderdale holds boat parades and air shows, and sponsors museums and performing arts centers. We bill ourselves as a vacation paradise and the Venice of America. We are a rich, luxurious community, lining A1A with hotels and restaurants, where the world comes to sun, swim, and surf.

Can we not forget that the sun which tans also burns? 

Can we not forget that there are good people with empty pockets who need a fair shake and a chance to be part of that dream?

Can we open our hearts to a clean, affordable and livable low cost housing project which creates opportunity and hope?

We are all entitled to a small ray of sunshine in our lives.

Happy Holidays, everyone.