On Saturday, I was proud to speak before the 24th National Gay and Lesbian Task Force “Creating Change” Conference, where I announced the publication of a new Equal Access to Housing Rules that says clearly and unequivocally that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.
The need for this rule is clear, particularly when it comes to housing. According to one recent report, not only are 40 percent of homeless youth LGBT, half of them report experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity or expression. Even more troubling, the majority of them report harassment, difficulty, or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters. That’s not just wrong – it’s not who we are as Americans. And as the Injustice at Every Turn report put out by the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality last year found, these challenges are all too common.
That’s why HUD is working to ensure that our housing programs are open to all – the rule will open access to housing for LGBT individuals and families in four important ways:
First, an equal access provision making clear that housing that is financed or insured by HUD must be made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
Second, by prohibiting owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing we insure, from inquiring about an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis.
Third, the new rule makes clear that the term “family” includes LGBT individuals and couples as eligible beneficiaries of HUD’s public housing and voucher programs – programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people.
Finally, the rule makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting an FHA-insured mortgage. Particularly with FHA playing an elevated role in the housing market today, this represents a critical step in ensuring that LGBT Americans have fair access to the dream of responsible, sustainable homeownership.
Of course, publishing HUD’s new rule won’t be the end of the process. HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training, to ensure that communities across the country are following the rules.
It’s clear that as critical as this new rule is, this work is just beginning. But with the rule’s publication, the Obama Administration is reaffirming that the state of our union is strongest when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules. And by ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to live where they choose, raise their families, and contribute to their communities, that’s the commitment I was so proud to represent on Saturday.