Today, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled new regulations being proposed by HUD that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in several of the federal agency's programs -- from government-backed mortgages to public housing.
The summary of the proposed rule states, "There is evidence ... that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and families are being arbitrarily excluded from some housing opportunities in the private sector. Through this proposed rule, HUD strives to ensure that its core programs are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Donovan today told reporters on a conference call that "over the last 24 months, we have worked to ensure that HUD's programs are open to all." Today's action, he explained, was "another important step" in doing that.
Most notably, the rules would prohibit lenders from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower's eligibility for Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage financing.
Donovan noted that this rule would have a significant impact because the "FHA represents one-third of all mortgages in this country." HUD officials later clarified that this would mean that private lenders seeking to issue FHA-insured loans would be required to follow the new rules.
Additionally, Donovan said that the rules today proposed clarify that "the term 'family' includes LGBT families and couples" as covered individuals and families in all HUD programs.
The proposed rule states, "The majority of HUD's rental housing and homeownership programs already interpret 'family' broadly. ... This proposed rule clarifies that families who otherwise eligible for HUD programs may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual or have an LGBT relationship or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship."
Finally, Donovan said the proposed rule "prohibits inquiries regarding sexual orientation or gender identity" in all HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD. HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity John Trasviña clarified that local public housing authorities would be required to follow the new rules.
A HUD spokesman said that "4.4 million units across the country" would be impacted by this portion of the rule, noting "that includes public housing, Section 8 vouchers and multi-family housing that's assisted through HUD funding."
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) released a statement praising the move.
"I am very pleased that HUD is taking this important step toward protecting the LGBT community from housing discrimination," Nadler said. "For far too long, housing discrimination against LGBT Americans has been tolerated or ignored, and these new regulations will advance our efforts to reject prejudice in the housing market."
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive direct Rea Carey said in a 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."
Trasviña said the rule made available today will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 24, which will then put in motion a 60-day public comment period that will end on March 25. A spokesman for the department said that publication of the final rules will depend upon the volume of comments received and any necessary changes to them. He said that he expects the final rule to be published before the end of 2011.
View the proposed rule: huddoc.pdf