By Matt Wood

On March 5, 2012, new regulations went into effect to protect the rights of LGBT people who live in public housing or who have Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-insured mortgages.

The LGBT Equal Access Policy, issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted properties and FHA-insured properties from making housing decisions based upon a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The rule also prohibits HUD-assisted and FHA-insured entities from inquiring about sexual orientation or gender identity for the purpose of making decisions about housing or mortgage eligibility, and clarifies that the definitions of “family” and “household” used to establish eligibility for HUD’s programscannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

The new policy provides much-needed protection against housing discrimination for transgender people. In announcing the draft rules early last year, HUD cited the National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by NCTE and the Task Force which showed that 19% of transgender people have been homeless at some point in their lives, and 29% of those had been turned away from homeless shelters. The results of Transgender Law Center’s 2008 survey of transgender Californians revealed even higher percentages of housing discrimination: 20% of survey respondents reported being homeless at some point in their lives, and 31% of those who sought housing at a shelter reported that they had been denied access. This new policy will protect more than 5.5 million people across the country from discrimination.