June 16, 2015

Protecting every person’s access to housing

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Photo: Should gender stereotypes influence where you live? Learn more about HUD's LGBT initiatives at www.hud.gov/fairhousing.

From the patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn whose stand against police brutality in 1969 sparked a national movement, to the brave young people who come out and speak out every day, courageous individuals have fought throughout history to solidify our country’s founding principles and extend democracy’s reach.

Because of their selfless acts, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) individuals have greater acceptance and more rights today than at any other time in our nation’s history.

This Pride Month, as we reflect on how much has been accomplished, let us recommit ourselves to ensuring that LGBTQ persons have full access to that most basic of human needs – housing.

HUD is doing its part. In 2010, HUD formally adopted the principle that gender identity discrimination is sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

This means that when HUD receives a fair housing complaint that alleges discrimination because someone does not conform to gender stereotypes, HUD now begins a formal investigation under the Fair Housing Act.

Since issuing this guidance, HUD and our state and local partners in fair housing enforcement have investigated more than 150 discrimination complaints under this authority.

HUD has also taken action to ensure that its programs are available to all.

In 2012, HUD published a final rule titled Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. The Equal Access Rule requires that housing that is assisted by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) be made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

The rule also prohibits recipients and sub-recipients of HUD funding, including owners and administrators of HUD-assisted and FHA-insured housing, from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of a housing applicant or occupant for the purposes of determining eligibility or otherwise making the housing available.

Also in 2013, in an effort to better understand the nature and extent of housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the rental market, HUD released a nationwide study. The study found that same-sex couples experience adverse treatment more often than heterosexual couples when responding to Internet advertisements for rental units and that gay male couples were more likely to receive adverse treatment than lesbian couples.

And in February of this year, we released additional guidance under the Equal Access rule on how best to provide shelter to transgender persons in single-sex shelters or other facilities.  Forty percent of homeless youth are LGBT, and the majority of them report harassment or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters. The guidance instructs providers on how best to address privacy and safety concerns within the facilities in ways that do not segregate or isolate transgender individuals.

HUD is proud of its efforts to level the playing field for LGBTQ Americans, but we know that more needs to be done.

No individual should be denied housing because of sexual orientation or gender identity, or because of who they choose to love.

As the nation celebrates Pride Month 2015, let us rededicate ourselves to working together toward achieving a more just society where everyone has the opportunity to live openly and freely.

Gustavo Velasquez is the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

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