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|New rule to ban anti-LGBT bias in federal housing programs|
|by Chris Johnson|
|February 03, 2012 00:00|
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan announced Jan. 28 a new regulation to protect LGBT people against discrimination in federal housing programs.
“I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose,” Donovan said. “This is an idea whose time has come.”
The secretary made the announcement during his speech at the 24th annual Creating Change conference at the Hilton Baltimore. He’s the first Cabinet secretary to speak at Creating Change, the annual LGBT gathering hosted by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
The measure is expected to go into effect starting in March, according to HUD officials.
The rule, first proposed in January, will cover programs serving an estimated 5.5 million Americans, including those living in low-income subsidized housing.
The measure clarifies “families” otherwise eligible for HUD programs can’t be excluded because one or more members of the family is LGBT, in a same-sex relationship, or is perceived to be such an individual or in such a relationship.
It also prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing whose financing is insured by HUD from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or occupant of a dwelling, whether renter or owner-occupied.
The measure has a bearing on mortgage insurance programs. It prohibits lenders from using LGBT status as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage financing.
John Trasviña, assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, confirmed the rule would also impact religious institutions, saying during a recent conference call that, “All HUD housing providers are covered under this rule.”
Prior to announcing the development at Creating Change, Donovan told the story of a couple, Mitch and Michelle DeShane, whom he said faced discrimination under the current lack of federal protections in housing. Donovan said two years ago Michelle wanted to add Mitch, a transgender man, to the voucher she receives for affordable housing.
But Donovan said the local housing authority denied the request because the couple didn’t 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,’” Donovan said.
“That’s just wrong,” Donovan concluded. “No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Donovan said the publication of the rule “won’t be the end of the process” and his department will undertake further steps to ensure training and education happen to implement the measure.
“HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule — and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation’s fair housing laws more broadly,” Donovan said.
LGBT groups, whom Donovan credited with providing feedback for the rule when the department solicited comments, praised HUD for making it final.
Rea Carey, the Task Force’s executive director, said the measure “will literally save lives” because many LGBT people “depend on HUD programs to have a roof over their head.”
“Unfortunately, there are landlords out there who would choose to discriminate, putting families in peril,” Carey said. “These housing protections will reduce homelessness and increase economic security for LGBT people, which helps break the cycle of poverty that many families experience due to discrimination.”
Top photo: Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan became the first Cabinet member to address the LGBT Creating Change conference. (Photo courtesy HUD)
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