Post submitted by McCleary Law Fellow Erin Perugini
Yesterday the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new rule to aid jurisdictions in their efforts to fulfill their obligations under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The rule implements a section of the FHA, which directed jurisdictions accepting federal funds to take significant actions to promote equality and “affirmatively further fair housing”. The AFFH provisions are a critical step towards ensuring that everyone has access to homes in communities that provide opportunities and resources for themselves and their families – including those who are LGBT. The new HUD rule requires communities to conduct an “Assessment of Fair Housing” to scrutinize their current patterns of integration and segregation, evaluate areas of poverty, and identify disparities in equal access and disproportionate housing. Once that assessment is complete the community must set goals to improve their housing patterns.
This federal commitment to affirmatively further access to fair housing is especially meaningful for the LGBT community. LGBT people remain largely unprotected from housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That means that LGBT people risk being denied housing or evicted simply for who they are or who they love. There is no federal law that currently prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and because of the patchwork of laws on the state level access to recourse or protection varies widely. Based on research conducted by HUD, same-sex couples experience significant levels of discrimination when responding to advertised rental housing nationwide – heterosexual couples were favored over gay male or lesbian couples by a significant margin. Transgender people experience discrimination in housing even more often. One in five transgender people have reported being refused a home or apartment because of their gender identity or expression.
In coalition with the fair housing and civil rights communities HRC has engaged with HUD throughout the rulemaking process, and applauds yesterday’s final rule.