Earlier this week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced plans to ensure that people eligible for their programs will not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. From the press release:
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.
The regulatory process is to begin immediately, with the study following soon after.
This proposed rule is important because of the high rates of poverty in the LGBT community, as well as high rates of homelessness, especially for trans individuals. The Fair Housing Act, which makes housing discrimination illegal, does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. This regulation won’t change that, though there are hopes that the study will prove to be a step forward, and so certainly there’s a whole lot more work to be done.
But the Housing Choice Voucher Program (better known as Section 8) is used by particularly low-income people. As trans people are believed to face higher rates of homelessness and poverty than LGB individuals, they will be disproportionately affected by this rule. Currently, Section 8 is also disproportionately used by elderly people and people with disabilities, which means that the rule will likely also have a particular impact on those members of the LGBT community.
The rule indeed won’t prevent all landlords of Section 8 housing from denying tenancy to individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — rather, it will only prevent HUD from discriminating itself in terms of allocating vouchers, and ensure that landlords in states that do have protections for LGBT people in place follow them in order to take part in the program. But even that much will have a very real effect for many people who are particularly vulnerable and marginalized in our society. And while certainly no place to stop, increasing protections for particularly vulnerable and marginalized people is, in my book, always the right place to start.
And speaking of elderly LGBT people, on the same day as the HUD announcement above, there was also a smaller announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about plans to create a national resource center for LGBT elders:
Experts estimate that as many as 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals are age 60 and older. Agencies that provide services to older individuals may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the needs of this group of individuals. The new Resource Center for LGBT Elders will provide information, assistance and resources for both LGBT organizations and mainstream aging services providers at the state and community level to assist them in the development and provision of culturally sensitive supports and services. The LGBT Center will also be available to educate the LGBT community about the importance of planning ahead for future long term care needs.
The LBGT Resource Center will help community-based organizations understand the unique needs and concerns of older LGBT individuals and assist them in implementing programs for local service providers, including providing help to LGBT caregivers who are providing care for an older partner with health or other challenges.
You can check out both full press releases over at the Bilerico Project. Also, see Autumn at Pam’s House Blend for more on how the proposed HUD rule would specifically impact the transgender community.
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