The Diversity and Housing Issues Connection – Part 2 of 2, Focus on LGBT

In last week’s blog, part 1 (link) I introduced the general topic of the strong connection between diversity work and housing issues, and highlighted many of the key points made at an all day Fair Housing Conference I had attended in the Spring.

This week I would like to expand on how housing issues impact the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community and provide links to some interesting stories and resources in this area.

Four main points:

1) There is no universal national protection for housing discrimination against LGBT people. Many people incorrectly and naively assume that LGBT people are offered the same protections against discrimination as people of different genders, races, religions, etc. In his closing speech at the 2013 Raleigh Fair Housing Conference, Bryan Greene from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development stated, “that it is quite remarkable that in today’s world, that the federal housing statute does not yet include sexual orientation, though some states and municipalities have added it.” Mr. Greene also shared that the US executive branch has issued a regulation that recipients of FHA grants, Section 8 and Public Housing Assistance cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, which is a great step in the right direction.

2) In fact, there is serious housing discrimination against LGBT people. In June of this year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a study they commissioned in conjunction with the University of Albany, State University of New York. (link to article.) Some of the findings included wide spread discrimination in across almost every market, and that gay male couples experiences more discrimination than lesbian couples. (see also ABC news story)

Fountaingrove Lodge, an LGBT retirement community in Sonoma, California has a main building with multiple units and individual homes like this beautiful bungalow

Fountaingrove Lodge, an LGBT retirement community in Sonoma, California has a main building with multiple units and individual homes like this beautiful bungalow

3) A fast growing area of discussion is LGBT senior housing. Safe and affordable housing for LGBT seniors is a growing hot topic among advocates for aging LGBT populations. There are new projects across the country seeking to bring solutions to the table, especially where LGBT people will be totally accepted – for example even having same-gender partners being able to share a unit or room together and be provided LGBT-competent health services. The North Carolina LGBT bi-weekly paper QNotes featured an excellent detailed article (link) about this.

4) There is a growing number of LGBT-affirming housing solutions emerging in our country. Here are three example:

The Carol Woods Retirement Community, here in my own state of North Carolina, is a welcoming progressive community which even placed an ad recently in QNotes, North Carolina’s LGBT bi-weekly paper and invited me to speak to their staff and residents about LGBT diversity
• There was a full page ad in a recent Gay and Lesbian Review (bi-monthly magazine) for Fountaingrove Lodge, a new retirement community in California exclusively for the LGBT retirement community.
• Innovative real estate entrepreneurs Todd Shipman and Steve Strode (who I met at the 2013 NGLCC Leadership Conference) have formed rEqual (link), a business partner and advocacy group connecting professionals engaged in the real estate industry with the LGBT community. And the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently awarded a Diversity Grant to the Oregon Association of REALTORS® (OAR) to take rEqual from concept to reality.

The Diversity and Housing Issues Connection – Part 1 of 2

Throughout this summer, I seemed to be involved, read information or met people who are connected with housing issues. And then I realized that there is a very strong connection between diversity work and housing.

Where a person or family lives is one of the most critical aspects of their lives and could determine access to jobs, training and needed services. Centrally located affordable housing offered without discriminatory practices near available transportation can be the single determining factor for someone to better their lives and advance out of joblessness or poverty.

In April, I was privileged to attend the annual Fair Housing Conference cohosted by the City of Raleigh, NC Fair Housing Hearing Board. Some of the key points presented by various speakers and panelists included:
• One successful model is non-profit corporations teaming with municipalities and neighborhoods to build and manage affordable housing that positively impacts neighborhoods. One such example is CASA in North Carolina. Some of their recent projects have targeted veterans and people with disabilities.

This beautiful CASA property is reserved with individuals and families with disabilities

This beautiful CASA property is reserved with individuals and families with disabilities

• Another best practices is when city or town governments work creatively across departments (like community affairs and transportation) to come up with solutions for city residents.
• There are certain populations that have an extra hard time find housing. These include ex-prisoners trying to productively re-enter society to start a new life, and immigrants who could face language barriers in filling out the paperwork and understanding lease agreements.
• Blatant discrimination against particular groups is still a reality in the United States. This poignant and shocking video (link) about discrimination against Muslims by an apartment complex in Texas was shown to conference attendees.
• There are a number of passionate and very knowledgeable groups and leaders who are working tirelessly to address the housing issue. One who was honored at the event was national housing leader and consultant Stella Adams. See also the NC Justice Center’s Consumer Protection and Housing Project.

The closing speaker for the conference was Bryan Greene, the US General Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. He highlighted some of the excellent work being coordinated out of the US Federal Government. Some of his key points included:
• There are still many issues around fair housing that HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) needs to continue to address into the future. This work is nowhere near over.
• The area of disabilities accounts for the largest number of complaints filed with HUD (45% of the total.) The most common issues are lack of accommodation (e.g. parking, assistance animals, etc.) and allowing modifications to units.
• Other hot areas of housing discrimination include familial (especially against single parents with children) and religious (especially against Muslims)
• Segregated communities are harmful for our country whereas fully integrated diverse communities will build a stronger nation.

In Part 2 coming next week I will expand into the connections between housing issues and my core area of diversity expertise – the LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender – community, including Bryan Greene’s comments about this area.