Metro Weekly

HUD guidance protects LGBT seniors from discrimination

Guidance says existing Equal Access Rule applies to elderly LGBT people seeking affordable housing

From left to right: Barbara Satin of the National LGBTQ Task Force, Sandy Warshaw, Dr. Imani Woody of Mary's House, and Michael Adams of SAGE USA at the White House Conference on Aging (Photo courtesy of SAGE USA).

From left to right: Barbara Satin of the National LGBTQ Task Force, Sandy Warshaw, Dr. Imani Woody of Mary’s House, and Michael Adams of SAGE USA at the White House Conference on Aging (Photo courtesy of SAGE USA).

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Monday announced a positive development for LGBT seniors seeking housing. 

As part of the White House Conference on Aging held on Monday, HUD released new guidance for HUD-supported or HUD-insured housing. Specifically, the guidance clarifies that the department’s recently adopted Equal Access Rule also applies to its Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program. The purpose of the Equal Access Rule, adopted in 2012, is to ensure HUD housing programs are open to all eligible individuals, regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. 

“Every American deserves to live with dignity, regardless of who they love or who they are,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a statement. “HUD is committed to fighting unjust discrimination and to expanding housing opportunity for all.”

Under the new guidance, housing is to be made available for individuals based on whether they meet the eligibility requirements. The guidance also explicitly prohibits an owner or administrator of HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing, a lender in a Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance program, or any other recipient of HUD funds from inquiring as to a housing applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to the guidance, those who are suspected of violating the new rule will be notified and expected to respond to the charges against them within 30 days. If owners or administrators do not respond or seek to remedy the alleged violations in the appropriate window of time, they could be subject to sanctions. Sanctions could include a three-year debarment — where the individual, organization and its affiliates are prohibited from conducting business with any federal agency; a shorter period of suspension; or a “limited denial of participation,” in which the individual or organization would be excluded from participating in HUD programs for a period of up to 12 months. Some owners or managers may also be subject to fines.

Aaron Tax, the director of federal government relations for Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), notes that past studies by HUD, SAGE and the Equal Rights Center have found extremely high rates of discrimination against same-sex couples, including elderly same-sex couples. 

“LGBT older adults continue to struggle with finding affordable and welcoming housing,” Tax says. “This new clarification and amplification of the Equal Access Rule takes an important step in helping LGBT elder adults find accessible, affordable, welcoming housing. It doesn’t invent anything new, but what it does is it takes guidance that HUD already issued, and makes sure individuals and organizations providing housing to older adult understand that this important rule applies to them.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com