In celebration of LGBT Pride Month the U.S. Depart of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced an update in policy which proposes new methods for addressing LGBT individuals faced with housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Act does not address housing discrimination based on sexual orientation specifically, nor does it cover gender identity-based discrimination. However, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan suggest that these types of issues could be addressed using other protect groups, for example LGBT parties could claim gender discrimination or discrimination based on a perceived disability.
The announcement by HUD regarding adding stronger policy, also encourages individuals to look at state laws and other local protections such as are enacted in approx. 20 states and a number of municipalities, which prohibit LGBT discrimination. HUD says local laws are not used in place of HUD but that they (local laws) can work in concert with the administrative efforts of HUD. Tenants can still file a complaint under the Fair Housing Act in federal district court.
The uncertainty of the economy makes housing an issue for all; however, according to National Center for Transgender Equality, those susceptible to discrimination, such as the LGBT community among others, find themselves especially vulnerable when no laws explicitly address these issues. Currently a significant number of transgender people are suffering eviction or homeless due to the lack of firm policy addressing LGBT non-discrimination. For this reason advocates want to see stronger law enacted to protect the housing of transgender tenants.
Three new bills are pending in the House, which would add specific language that speaks to discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to the efforts of some elected officials to pass more meaningful and impactful law, HUD has also taken steps to address such discrimination, including proposing policy that would address the issue in the core HUD housing programs requiring participant’s compliance with any local anti-discrimination laws addressing sexual orientation and gender identity. Mortgage and loan discrimination based on the same type of discrimination is also a target for reform. Though these changes in policy still must face review by the public and the laws must be voted though the House, these are long awaited steps in the right direction.