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Housing and Urban Development Plans to Prohibit Gender Identity Discrimination

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced yesterday new plans to ensure that HUD's housing programs are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. To date, HUD is the first federal agency to publicly propose guidelines that would explicitly address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“These are welcomed and much-needed reforms”, Said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Especially in the context of this rocky economic climate that has already left so many people fearful of losing the roofs over their heads. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remain particularly vulnerable in seeking or retaining housing due to widespread bias, discrimination and a lack of housing protections.”

In a forthcoming and groundbreaking survey of transgender discrimination in the United States, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality found that high unemployment, low incomes and high levels of housing insecurity all point to the need for safe, affordable public housing for transgender people. Currently there are no federal protections against housing discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Said Carey, “We’re talking about one of the most fundamental needs a person can have: shelter. All people should be able to obtain affordable housing free from discrimination; a safe place to live, a roof over one’s head. Explicitly including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families in housing policies in order to better protect them and ensure fairness marks a proper governmental response and step toward rectifying a long-standing inequity.”

"This is a great day," said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. "Housing is such a basic need, yet we regularly hear from transgender people who experience housing discrimination and fear homelessness."

TLC's 2008 Transgender Economic Health survey of almost 650 transgender Californians revealed that housing protections and programs are critical for transgender people. Among survey respondents, 19% experienced housing discrimination and 21% have been homeless. Meanwhile, home ownership for transgender Californians is disproportionately low (20%) compared to the overall population in California (56%).

According to the announcement the HUD will submit a proposed rule that makes three important changes to federal regulations. First, it includes language that ensures same-sex couples and their children are recognized as families covered by HUD programs, including affordable housing assistance. Second it requires organizations that administer HUD grants to abide by state and local laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Third it prohibits consideration of factors other than creditworthiness, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in the awarding of mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. In addition, HUD announced that the Department will conduct the first-ever nationwide survey of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing.

Said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, “The proposed policies will help some of the most vulnerable people in our community and the nationwide survey will finally shed light on the discrimination LGBT people face every day in trying to make homes for themselves and their families. We thank Secretary Donovan and President Obama for taking this historic step forward.”