New Federal Rule Ensures Equal Access to Public Housing Assistance

A new federal rule requiring any program funded or insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide equal access to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people went into effect on March 5.

The rule will mean, among other things, that unaccompanied, homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth cannot be turned away from federal housing assistance programs because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, says Curtis Porter, director of the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs.

“Many of our Runaway and Homeless Youth Program grantees also receive funding from HUD or help young people to get public housing assistance,” Porter says. “Our grantees are already working hard to ensure that young people have a safe place to stay, and we believe the new HUD rule will bolster their ability to do that.”

Among the rule’s provisions is one that ensures that housing supported or insured by HUD must be made available to people regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. Another provision prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing from inquiring into a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or making housing available.

The inquiry provision does not prohibit HUD-funded emergency shelters from inquiring about a person’s sex for the purposes of placing them, for instance if a shelter has separate spaces for men and women, HUD officials say. It does not prevent individuals from identifying themselves as LGBT, if they choose to do so on their own. And it does not prevent organizations from collecting anonymous, voluntary information about sexual orientation and gender identity for compliance with state, local or federal data collection requirements.

“LGBT youth face homelessness at alarming rates and rely upon HUD-funded programs when confronted with housing instability,” says John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This rule, we believe, will result in LGBT youth having greater access to and feeling safer in shelters and other HUD-assisted entities.”

For more information about the new rule and HUD’s efforts to prevent housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, contact lgbtfairhousing@hud.gov or visit www.hud.gov/lgbthousingdiscrimination.