Home. It isn’t just a roof over your head—it provides you with a place to center yourself and leave each morning and return to each evening. If it’s a happy one, it’s filled with memories and items that bring you joy. If it’s a safe one, it brings you belonging, identity, privacy and security. But not everyone is granted fair and equal access to this basic human right — in fact, some are denied it.
Read on to understand the barriers preventing LGBTQ people from accessing safe, affordable, stable housing and what the law says about housing-related discrimination.
Barriers faced by the LGBTQ community
Compared to non-LGBTQ people, LGBTQ people have lower rates of homeownership, higher rates of homelessness and higher rates of poverty, the UCLA School of Law writes. Being deprived of fair access to safe, affordable housing exacerbates these issues. According to the UCLA School of Law:
1. LGBTQ people face pervasive discrimination and harassment by housing providers.
For example, studies have shown that housing providers are less likely to respond to rental inquiries from same-sex couples (Friedman et al., 2013). They are also more likely to quote male same-sex couples higher rents (Levy et al., 2017) than similar different-sex couples.
2. Elderly LGBTQ persons face a higher risk of being turned away from or charged higher rents at assisted or independent living centers.
This is according to Equal Rights Center, 2014. They are also at a greater risk of being treated poorly, harassed or forced to go ‘back in the closet’ once they move in (e.g., AARP Research, 2018).
3. Studies show that 20-45 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.
This is at least two to four times higher than the estimated percentage of all youth who identify as LGBTQ (e.g., Baams et al., 2019; Choi et al., 2015).
4. Same-sex couples face systemic discrimination by mortgage lenders.
One study found that, compared to different-sex borrowers of similar profiles, same-sex borrowers faced a three to eight percent lower approval rate, Among approved loans, the interest and/or fees were higher (Sun & Gao, 2019).
And there is no shortage of stories to back up these stats.
In 2011, a married lesbian couple wanted both of their names listed on the lease agreement for their rent-stabilized apartment in New York, and the landlord refused, Nadel & Ciarlo, Attorneys at Law, writes.
A transgender woman asked a rental housing agent about an advertised unit. After she explained the difference between her legal name and the name she uses, the agent cut the meeting short, the Urban Institute reports.
A Boulder County property owner refused to rent a housing unit to same-sex couple Tonya and Rachel Smith, one of whom is transgender, and their children. The reasoning? She worried that their “uniqueness” would damage her reputation in the community, Lambda Legal reports.
These appalling examples highlight a need for society-wide education about the LGBTQ community and greater legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual and ally persons. While we still have a long way to go, there have recently been a few positive changes on the legislation front.
Know your rights: The Fair Housing Act
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing — including real estate companies, landlords, municipalities, banks, or other lending institutions and homeowners insurance companies — whose discriminatory practices make housing inaccessible to persons due to:
• Race or color
• National origin
• Familial status
Previously, it was unclear whether the Fair Housing Act extended to LGBTQ people, but in early 2021, new legislation addressed that uncertainty.
In February of 2021, the Biden Administration extended the Fair Housing Act protections to LGBTQ people — a long-overdue change — prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation, NBC News reports. LGBTQ people will gain protections retroactively, and officials say they will investigate claims filed since January 20, 2020.
Being denied access to safe, affordable housing due to discrimination is reprehensible, but it still happens at an alarming rate. So, what steps can you take to fight back?
What to do if you experience discrimination
If you have experienced housing discrimination due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as soon as possible. You can call 1-800-669-9777 or 1-800-877-8339 to speak with an FHEO intake specialist or call your regional FHEO office at the phone numbers on this list on HUD’s website.
It’s illegal to retaliate against any person for testifying, making a complaint, assisting or participating in any manner in a proceeding under HUD’s complaint process at any time — before, during or after the investigation is finished. If a housing provider uses your complaint as fuel for retaliation, this could be grounds for prosecution.
If you need help navigating the complaint process or wish to prosecute, get on the phone with one of LegalShield’s lawyers to ensure you get the retribution that’s rightfully yours. Our lawyers have worked with people from a diverse array of backgrounds, abilities, gender identities and sexual orientations and we’re ready to fight for the justice — and housing — you deserve.
How LegalShield can help
Everyone deserves safe, affordable housing, regardless of skin color, background, national origin, abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity. If you believe a landlord, rental agent or another entity is behaving in a discriminatory manner, contact a LegalShield lawyer to ensure that your legal rights are protected and respected. For just $29.95 a month, you will gain access to a team of experienced lawyers who can consult with you on a variety of legal matters, including discrimination. Contact LegalShield today to ensure that you can find your own home sweet home — whatever that looks like.
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