At the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conference in Baltimore this weekend, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), said that the department would be considering new guidelines to protect LGBT people from discrimination in both housing and lending.
The new rules – which are expected to go into effect in about a month – will prohibit anyone affiliated with HUD-insured housing from asking about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This goes for both property operators and lenders. Up until now, the definition of “family” has been a sticking point with many same-sex couples seeking financial help when it comes to housing. But the new rules mean that questions about marriage, orientation and gender will no longer fly in 30 days.
“Two years ago, Michelle wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to the housing voucher she receives to find affordable housing,” said Donovan. “The local housing authority denied her request. They told her that the couple did not meet its definition of ‘family.’ Then, the DeShanes were referred to a neighboring housing authority – because, as they were apparently told, and I quote, that housing authority, ‘accepts everyone – even Martians.’ That’s just wrong. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
He also said that a recent HUD report found that 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT – and that half of them report experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity. “Even more troubling, the majority report harassment, difficulty, or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters,” Donovan explained. “It’s why we are conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination – a historic and important study we designed based on feedback from town halls conducted in communities across the country.”
HUD has been holding discussions about LGBT rights in housing since last year – which inspired the new guidelines, he said.
And for both young professionals, who can take advantage of incentives for rent breaks in urban areas like Philly, and seniors struggling on fixed incomes – this is great news.
Click here for a transcript of the speech and details about the new guidelines.