Obama Administration Proposes LGBT Protections for Home Rental and Ownership

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the following statement late this afternoon.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan today announced a series of proposals to ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The evidence is clear that some are denied the opportunity to make housing choices in our nation based on who they are and that must end,” said Donovan. “President Obama and I are determined that a qualified individual and family will not be denied housing choice based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The initiatives announced today will be a proposed rule that will provide the opportunity for public comment. The proposed rule will:

  • clarify that the term “family” as used to describe eligible beneficiaries of our public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs include otherwise eligible lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals and couples. HUD’s public housing and voucher programs help more than three million families to rent an affordable home. The Department’s intent to propose new regulations will clarify family status to ensure its subsidized housing programs are available to all families, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • require grantees and those who participate in the Department’s programs to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  • specify that any FHA-insured mortgage loan must be based on the credit-worthiness of a borrower and not on unrelated factors or characteristics such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition to issuance of proposed rule, HUD will commission the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing.

HUD expects to begin the regulatory process immediately. The LGBT discrimination study is similarly fast tracked. HUD undertook important research in 1977, 1989 and 2000 to study the impact of housing discrimination on the basis of race and color. It is believed that LGBT individuals and families may remain silent because in many local jurisdictions, they may have little or no legal recourse. HUD’s study will examine housing discrimination based on Sexual orientation or gender identity.

While there are no national assessments of LGBT housing discrimination, there are state and local studies that have shown this sort of bias. For example, Michigan’s Fair Housing Centers found that nearly 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated differently when attempting to buy or rent a home. Please visit online. (pdf)

Thirty-three states (including mine) provide no housing protection for LGBT people. Of those, sixteen states have no protection even on a city- or county-level. (See Michigan study (pdf) for more details.)

When/If the proposed regulations go into effect, this will be an important step forward especially for the trans community, known to be much more at risk for unemployment, underemployment, and homelessness. And because the regulations don’t have to wait for congressional approval, implementation should be swift.

Good work Mr. President, and thank you.

(h/t @sisterstalk)

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