The Fair Housing Act now applies to LGBTQ renters and home buyers. Here’s what changed

HUD is expanding the Fair Housing Act

Trans and other members of the LGBTQ community are now protected under the Fair Housing Act, according to an announcement from the Department of Housing and Urban Development late last week.

The agency will now investigate complaints of housing discrimination relating to sexual orientation and gender identity — two classes not previously protected under the law. 

This is a critical change; HUD has recognized the history of housing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and is offering legal protection to those affected for the first time.

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LGBTQ housing discrimination: An “urgent” issue

“Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action,” said Jeanine M. Worden, the acting assistant secretary of HUD’s Fair Housing office.

“That is why HUD, under the Biden Administration, will fully enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Worden continues, “Every person should be able to secure a roof over their head free from discrimination, and the action we are taking today will move us closer to that goal.”

This change is in line with the Biden Administration’s goals to reduce discrimination in housing, and to make renting and home buying more accessible and affordable.

What are Fair Housing protections?

The Fair Housing Act — technically Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 — protects Americans from discrimination when:

  • Renting or buying a property
  • Applying for a mortgage
  • Seeking housing assistance
  • Participating in any other housing-related activity

Seven classes are explicitly protected in the Act, including race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, disability and sex. 

Prior to HUD’s latest announcement, “sex” had meant biological sex.

Now, under the new expansions, the Fair Housing Act also protects against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation as well.

How this change helps LGBTQ renters and homebuyers

Thanks to the changes, LGBTQ Americans can now file complaints with HUD if they feel they’re discriminated against at any point while seeking housing.

This could include discrimination by a real estate agent, mortgage professional, rental property owner, apartment manager, or anyone else 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 apartment building not to dress in women’s clothing 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 these or any other types of housing discrimination because of your gender identity or sexual orientation, file a complaint at HUD.gov/FairHousing.

Complaints dating back to January 20, 2020, will be investigated.

Why the Fair Housing Act is being expanded

There are three reasons HUD has expanded Fair Housing protections to trans and other LTBTQ Americans.

First, there’s President Biden’s Day 1 executive order, which calls on government agencies to “prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”

According to agency spokespeople, HUD is the first department to comply with this executive order.

A new interpretation of the law

The recent Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County also plays a role. In the 2019 case, the court found that a transgender worker’s firing was a direct violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and that “sex” protections did indeed apply. 

“Homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote.

“Not because homosexuality or transgender status are related to sex in some vague sense or because discrimination on these bases has some disparate impact on one sex or another, but because to discriminate on these grounds requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex.”

According to HUD, the ruling clarified how the Civil Rights Act — including its Fair Housing provisions — should be interpreted moving forward.

“Enforcing the Fair Housing Act to combat housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity isn’t just the right thing to do-it’s the correct reading of the law after Bostock,” said Damon Y. Smith, HUD’s principal deputy general counsel.

“We are simply saying that the same discrimination that the Supreme Court has said is illegal in the workplace is also illegal in the housing market.”

A history of housing discrimination

HUD also cited numerous studies surrounding housing discrimination and the LGBTQ community in its decision to expand Fair Housing protections.

One study, for example, found that same-sex male couples were significantly less likely to receive responses when seeking a rental property. Another found discrimination against transgender women in homeless shelters.

With the expansion of the Fair Housing Act, there’s now a legal path to recourse for individuals who have been barred from housing or discriminated against in this manner.

Source: themortgagereports.com

HUD vows to protect LGBTQ from housing discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Thursday it will administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a memorandum, HUD notes the policy set forth in President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 13988 on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation, which directed executive branch agencies to “examine further steps that could be taken to combat such discrimination.”

HUD offices and recipients of HUD funds will enforce the policy immediately, said Jeanine Worden, acting assistant secretary of HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

“Housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity demands urgent enforcement action,” Worden said. “Every person should be able to secure a roof over their head free from discrimination, and the action we are taking today will move us closer to that goal.”


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Specifically, the memorandum directs the following:

  • HUD will accept and investigate all jurisdictional complaints of sex discrimination, including discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation, and enforce the Fair Housing Act where it finds such discrimination occurred 
  • HUD will conduct all activities involving the application, interpretation, and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination consistent with its conclusion that such discrimination includes discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • State and local jurisdictions funded by HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) that enforce the Fair Housing Act through their HUD-certified substantially equivalent laws will be required to administer those laws to prohibit discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Organizations and agencies that receive grants through the Department’s Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) must carry out their funded activities to also prevent and combat discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity. 
  • FHEO regional offices, FHAP agencies, and FHIP grantees are instructed to review, within 30 days, all records of allegations (inquiries, complaints, phone logs, etc.) received since Jan. 20, 2020, and notify persons who alleged discrimination because of gender identity or sexual orientation that their claims may be timely and jurisdictional for filing under this memorandum.

Sexual identity discrimination will also not be tolerated, HUD officials said. Per the outcome of Supreme Court case Bostock v Clayton County, the Court held that workplace prohibitions on sex discrimination include discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Unfortunately, housing discrimination is the lived reality for many LGBTQ people in our country – and this is especially true for the transgender community,” said Erin Uritus, CEO of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates. “Housing is basic human right. “Thankfully, President Biden is bringing the full force of the federal government to bear so that no LGBTQ American will be denied a roof over their head just because of who they are or who they love.”

Studies have indicated that same-sex couples and transgender persons in communities across the country experience demonstrably less favorable treatment than their straight and cisgender counterparts when seeking rental housing, per HUD officials.

“Enforcing the Fair Housing Act to combat housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s the correct reading of the law after Bostock,” said Damon Smith, principal deputy general counsel. “We are simply saying that the same discrimination that the Supreme Court has said is illegal in the workplace is also illegal in the housing market.” 

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice withdrew HUD’s appeal of a case postponing the agency’s 2020 Disparate Impact Rule that would have made it harder to bring discrimination claims under the Fair Housing Act.

By withdrawing the appeal, the preliminary injunction under the case Massachusetts Fair Housing Center v. HUD will continue to delay implementation on the rule. According to DOJ court documents, HUD, along with HUD Acting Secretary Matt Ammon voluntarily moved to dismiss the appeal.

The rule, initially enacted in 2013 under the Obama administration, drew significant backlash from the housing industry after changes to the rule were made under former President Trump last year.

Criticism was especially apparent after then-HUD Secretary Ben Carson issued updated guidelines that imposed a specific, five-step approach that required regulators to prove intentional discrimination on the lender’s behalf.

Under HUD’s previous rule, lenders, landlords and other housing providers could be held liable for discrimination against protected classes even if it was not their intent to discriminate. The use of disparate impact was challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the rule in 2015.

Source: housingwire.com

FHFA appoints general counsel to create “world-class regulator”

The Federal Housing Finance Agency appointed Clinton Jones as its new general counsel, saying this was the next step in turning the FHFA into a “world-class regulator.”

Jones will step into the role immediately, taking the place of Alfred Pollard, who will retire from the FHFA at the end of March.

“Alfred has served admirably as General Counsel to every FHFA Director,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said. “I am grateful for his wise counsel, hard work, and dedication to the Agency. Clinton’s long-standing career in public service, in-depth legal expertise in housing policy and executive leadership skills will help bolster FHFA’s work as a world-class prudential regulator.”

When Calabria first took over as head of the agency, he focused on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their future in conservatorship. But Calabria also expressed his hope that he could make the FHFA an agency of progressive thinkers.

“I want it to be in a spot where, for instance, if you’re a young lawyer coming out of law school and you have an offer from the Fed or the OCC, that you may be willing to entertain an offer to come work at FHFA,” Calabria told HousingWire at the time. “I think it’s critical that we have a deep research function and are viewed as cutting-edge thinkers.”


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Calabria said the hiring of FHFA Senior Advisor for Economics Lynn Fisher, who previously served as vice president of economics at the Mortgage Bankers Association, early on in his tenure, was in pursuit of this goal.

Since 2019, Jones has served as a senior advisor at FHFA. Prior to joining the agency, he served for 24 years in various senior legal roles at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services, including General Counsel, Parliamentarian, and, most recently, Senior Counsel for the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee. Jones was also a vice president at Fannie Mae and an attorney advisor for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has been adjunct faculty at Howard University since 1990.

Until now, Pollard had been the only general counsel to serve the agency since it was formed in 2008, and served as general counsel to its predecessor, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. He has also served on several presidential mortgage fraud task forces and as a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States. In 2014, Pollard was named by National Law Journal as one of “America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel.”

Source: housingwire.com