On July 16, 2012, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness hosted a listening session entitled “Understanding the Needs of the LGBT Homeless Population” at the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ 2012 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. This listening session allowed Federal partners to learn from advocates, community partners, and homeless service providers about the challenges, opportunities, and best practices related to the implementation of HUD’s new Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity final rule.
This rule, which took effect March 5, 2012, created new regulatory provisions intended to ensure that HUD programs are open to all eligible individuals regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. Specifically, the rule includes:
- An equal access provision, which requires housing that is funded by HUD or subject to a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to be made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status;
- Clarification that the terms “family” and “household” as used in HUD programs include persons regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status;
- A prohibition on owners and operators of HUD-funded housing or housing insured by FHA asking about an applicant’s or occupant’s sexual orientation or gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or otherwise making housing available; and
- A prohibition on FHA lenders from taking into account actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in determining the adequacy of a potential borrower’s income.
The provisions of the rule apply to recipients of HUD funds, including HUD-funded entities that serve people who are homeless. As guidance on the rule, HUD released a webinar, which includes further detail on the rule provisions and examples of potential rule violations, including a HUD-funded shelter that violates the rule by denying access to a transgender woman because of her gender identity.
The discussion at the listening session was enlightening and productive. Many providers shared their own policies and procedures, and described how respecting the choices and unique circumstances of each individual has helped further the goal of the rule: to ensure that eligible LGBT individuals are not excluded from HUD programs. The participants also discussed hurdles they have encountered when trying to best serve the LGBT population, and recommended courses of action for HUD to pursue as it develops additional guidance and training.
The listening session was an important first step. HUD would like to learn more from shelter providers about innovative policies and procedures they have implemented to more effectively serve the LGBT community. Please email LGBTfairhousing@hud.govto share your best practices with us.