Department of Housing and Urban Development Unveils LGBT Equal Access Policy

By Maya Rupert, Esq.
NCLR Federal Policy Director

In a powerful speech on Saturday, January 28th, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan made history when he unveiled HUD’s LGBT Equal Access policy—a new rule that will protect more than 5.5 million people across the country from discrimination in public housing and Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages.

The new rule, announced at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference, will improve the lives of LGBT people and families across the country—and marks the first time that any administration has extended such broad protections against housing and mortgage discrimination to the LGBT community.

This rule, which will be published this week and go into effect 30 days later, came after a proposed version of this rule was released in January 2011. In response to the proposed rule, NCLR drafted comments on behalf of over 30 other LGBT, civil rights, and fair housing organizations—many of which were incorporated into the final version of the rule.
Perhaps most significantly, this new rule, which has the effect of law, will prohibit all owners and operators of HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing from discriminating against an applicant or occupant of a residence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

This is huge.

HUD-assisted and HUD-insured housing account for a large segment of all of housing opportunities. Thanks to this rule, it is now illegal in that housing market to discriminate against our families because of who we are. The rule also prohibits all lenders offering FHA-insured mortgages from considering sexual orientation or gender identity in determining a borrower’s eligibility. FHA-insured mortgages represent a very large share—between 40% and 50% of the mortgage market.

The rule also clarifies the definition of “family” to ensure that otherwise eligible participants in any HUD programs will not be excluded based on marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. These programs, including crucial public housing programs like Section 8, will now be accessible to all LGBT individuals and families.

NCLR is proud to have worked closely with HUD on a series of policy changes that target and address housing discrimination against LGBT people.

In 2010, HUD announced that it would require all grant-seekers applying for funds from HUD to comply with any state and local laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also announced the launch of a ground-breaking national study of housing discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the sale and rental of housing.

In another historic move later that year, HUD announced that it interprets the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex to protect transgender and gender nonconforming people. In September 2010, NCLR co-hosted a webinar with HUD that educated HUD staff and housing providers on their new obligations under this guidance.

In December, NCLR partnered with HUD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging to hold the first-ever national summit examining housing issues for LGBT elders. The day-long event provided a forum for attendees to discuss ideas and policy proposals to support housing and long-term care designed for LGBT elders.

HUD’s new LGBT Equal Access policy will have an impact that goes beyond increased access to housing and housing services. The homelessness and housing insecurity that results from widespread housing discrimination places our community at increased risk for violence, and while the passage of hate crimes legislation was historic, we urgently need policies aimed at reducing vulnerability to violence.

This new rule will increase access to essential housing services and programs, making it easier for LGBT families to secure home loans, and keep more LGBT people in safe and affordable housing.

It will literally save lives.

We encourage you to contact HUD and thank them for their historic leadership on these important issues and the momentous impact it will have on our families and community. Feel free to email them at LGBTfairhousing@hud.gov. In addition, if you are willing to share your story, please do so by visiting the Obama Pride Facebook page for a chance to have your story featured on President Obama’s blog!

Media Contact:  

NCLR Communications Director Erik Olvera | Office: 415.392.6257 x324 |EOlvera@NCLRights.org

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