HUD expands the Fair Housing Act
According to an announcement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development late last week, Trans and other members of the LGBTQ community are now protected by the Fair Housing Act.
The agency will now investigate complaints of housing discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity – two classes that were previously not protected by law.
This is a critical change. HUD has recognized the history of discrimination against LGBTQ people in residential areas and for the first time offers those affected legal protection.
Review your home purchase eligibility (February 16, 2021).
Discrimination Against LGBTQ Housing: An “Urgent” Problem
"Housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity requires urgent enforcement action," said Jeanine M. Worden, deputy assistant secretary of the HUD Office for Fair Housing.
"Therefore, under the Biden Administration, HUD will fully enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation."
Worden continues, "Everyone should be able to secure a roof over their heads free from discrimination, and the actions we are taking today will bring us closer to that goal."
This change is in line with the Biden government's goals of reducing housing discrimination and making home rentals and home purchases more accessible and affordable.
What are protective measures for fair living?
The Fair Housing Act – technically Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 – protects Americans from discrimination if:
Rent or buy a property Apply for a mortgage Seek housing assistance Participate in other housing-related activities
Seven classes are specifically protected by law, including race, color, national origin, religion, marital status, disability, and gender.
Before HUD's last announcement, “sex” had meant biological sex.
With the new extensions, the law on fair housing also protects against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
How this change is helping LGBTQ renters and homebuyers
Thanks to the changes, LGBTQ Americans can now file complaints with the HUD if at any point they feel discriminated against while looking for housing.
This could include discrimination from a real estate agent, mortgage lender, rental property owner, apartment manager, or any other person involved in the housing process.
HUD offers two examples of what LGBTQ housing discrimination might look like:
"A transgender woman is asked by the owner of her home not to wear women's clothes in the common areas of the property." "A gay man is evicted because his landlord believes he will infect other tenants with HIV / AIDS."
If you've experienced this or any other type of discrimination based on your gender identity or sexual orientation, file a complaint at HUD.gov/FairHousing.
Complaints dating back to January 20, 2020 are being investigated.
Why the fair housing law is being expanded
There are three reasons HUD has extended fair living protection to trans and other LTBTQ Americans.
First, there is President Biden's first day executive order calling on government agencies to "prevent and combat discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation."
According to the agency's spokesmen, HUD is the first department to comply with this executive order.
A new interpretation of the law
The recent Bostock Supreme Court v Clayton County case also plays a role. In the 2019 case, the court found that dismissing a transgender worker was a direct violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and that “gender protection” was indeed in place.
"Homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably linked to sex," wrote Judge Neil Gorsuch.
"Not because homosexuality or transgender status are vaguely related to sex, or because discrimination on these bases has different effects on one or the other sex, but because an employer must deliberately treat individual employees differently because of its discrimination against sex."
According to the HUD, the judgment clarified how the civil rights law – including its provisions on fair living – is to be interpreted in the future.
"Enforcing the Fair Housing Act to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not the right thing to do – it is the correct reading of the Bostock law," said Damon Y. Smith, HUD deputy general counsel.
"We're simply saying that the same discrimination that the Supreme Court ruled illegal in the workplace is illegal in the housing market."
A History of Housing Discrimination
HUD also cited numerous studies on housing discrimination and the LGBTQ community in its decision to expand the protection of fair housing.
For example, one study found that same-sex male couples were significantly less likely to get answers when looking for a rental property. Another found discrimination against transgender women in shelters for the homeless.
With the expansion of the Fair Housing Act, there is now a legal way to access people who have been excluded from housing or discriminated against in this way.