Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Queer housing groups popping up in Seattle amid high rents

Share this Post:
Illustration by Daniel Crane
Illustration by Daniel Crane

It's not new news that rent is expensive around here. In August 2022, the Seattle Times reported that one in five renters in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area spent more than half of their income on rent. Using data from Redfin, a 2023 report from KIRO-7 described "skyrocketing" rents from 2021 to 2022 and placed the current rent for a one-bedroom apartment at $2,145.

Amid those steep costs, a considerable number of Queer housing groups have begun to appear in the city, all of whose members are taking slightly different approaches to their advocacy. The Facebook group Seattle Queer Housing, though created 10 years ago, now has over 13,000 members looking for roommates or a place to live. In 2021, Queer the Land, whose members work to resist displacement, obtained a house in Beacon Hill with 12 bedrooms that will become transitional and permanent housing for Queer and Trans people of color. Pride Place, affordable housing in Capitol Hill geared toward Queer people over 55, opened last month. Lavender Rights Project expects to open permanent housing for Queer, Trans, and Two-Spirit people and people of color (QT2BIPOC) in Capitol Hill by 2025.

Intersectional identities and housing barriers
Ebo Barton, director of housing services at Lavender Rights Project, sees a connection between the emergence of these groups and the additional barriers created by holding multiple marginalized identities, like having to disclose them to access resources when it may not feel safe.

"To be frank, we're tired of waiting on agencies, bureaucratic processes, to find out that we have a need in the first place," Barton said. "These things take years for them to figure out. I know I'm broke, you know you're broke — why do we have to do all of this, right? I think that folks are tired of trying to work with organizations that don't understand our bodies, don't understand our culture, and we want to get it for ourselves."

The data reflects Barton's point about intersecting identities creating barriers. Forty-two percent of Black Trans respondents to the 2015 US Transgender Survey (USTS) reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. In the same survey, 38% reported living in poverty, which is 14% more than Black people who are not Trans in the US. A 2022 report from the Trevor Project found that 28% of LGBT youth in general experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

"The definition of chronically homeless and at risk of chronic homelessness is just something that every single one of our community members fit into. I can't even imagine a time that I wasn't considered one of those identities," Barton said.

Community spaces on land of their own
Of the organizations with housing projects listed above, Queer the Land and Lavender Rights Project are both QT2BIPOC-led. Their leadership has acquired land for their projects, which Barton called "groundbreaking."

"I think there's something to be said about the other organizations and their ownership of the land," Barton said. "That is something that is rare in our communities."

Queer the Land, Lavender Rights Project, and Pride Place all have some sort of community space or health services planned at their housing sites. The Queer the Land house plans a community food garden and office spaces. The Lavender Rights Project property will include a community space with lots of natural light, a computer lab, and a clinical space. In the Pride Place building, there will be a community and health services center on the first floor.

"That was one of the major things that we wanted when looking for a property, too. Our folks need to congregate — that's just part of the culture," Barton said. "One of my things is about holistic wellness, social wellness, and spiritual wellness — you can't do that alone."

For Barton, there was something special about having property liberated for his community.

"Something that's often taken from us is the idea of choice. As we have less income, have less privilege, the idea of choice is often taken from us. This is a beautiful example of giving our communities a choice."