HUD policy: Discrimination on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity prohibited

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Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm | More from The Michigan Messenger

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a new policy initiative to prohibit discrimination in housing programs on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is a fundamental issue of fairness,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “We have a responsibility to make certain that public programs are open to all Americans. With this proposed rule, we will make clear that a person’s eligibility for federal housing programs is, and should be, based on their need and not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The proposal, according to a HUD press release, would do the following:

Prohibiting lenders from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing. FHA’s current regulations provide that a mortgage lender’s determination of the adequacy of a borrower’s income “shall be made in a uniform manner without regard to” specified prohibited grounds. The proposed rule would add actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to the prohibited grounds to ensure FHA-approved lenders do not deny or otherwise alter the terms of mortgages on the basis of irrelevant criteria.

Clarifying that all otherwise eligible families, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs. In the majority of HUD’s rental and homeownership programs the term “family” already has a broad scope, and includes a single person and families with or without children. HUD’s proposed rule clarifies that families, otherwise eligible for HUD programs, may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship.

Prohibiting 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 for, or occupant of, the dwelling, whether renter- or owner-occupied. HUD is proposing to institute this policy in its rental assistance and homeownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.

The proposed rule can be reviewed here.

Last year, HUD required all groups and organizations receiving federal support to follow local and state non-discrimination ordinances, including those which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is also conducting the first ever study of LGBT people and housing needs.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force praised the agency for the new rule in a press statement Thursday. Rea Carey, executive director of NGLTF, released the following statement:

“These are critically important reforms given that 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. We’re talking about one of the most fundamental needs a person can have: shelter. Everyone should be able to obtain affordable housing free from discrimination, have a safe place to live and a roof over their head.

“We’ve heard painful stories over the years from lesbians, gay men, bisexual and transgender people who were discriminated against when trying to secure a home. These reforms will go a long way toward ending an injustice that has had such a profound and far-reaching negative impact on people’s lives. What this means for our community is greater access to and protections for safe and secure housing. HUD plays a major role in low-income housing programs and the private mortgage market. These proposed steps would do much to help our families. LGBT low-income families regardless of where they live will have equal access to HUD housing programs. LGBT people will be judged based on credit-worthiness for mortgages without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. And, LGBT families would be included in the definition of family for HUD-related programs.

Michigan has no state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment or housing, and only a handful of municipalities and even not all of those prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

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