Housing and Homelessness

One in five transgender people in the U.S. have been refused a home or apartment, and more than one in ten have been evicted, because of their gender identity. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance stating that discrimination against transgender renters or homebuyers based on gender identity or gender stereotypes constitutes sex discrimination and is prohibited under the federal Fair Housing Act. While federal authorities have pursued transgender housing discrimination claims under this guidance, lack of awareness and legal clarity mean that discrimination persists. Strong, explicit legal protection from gender identity discrimination is essential to securing equal housing opportunities for transgender people.

Homelessness is also a critical issue for transgender people, with one in five having experienced homelessness at some time in their lives because of discrimination and family rejection. As a result, an estimated 20-40% of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States are LGBT3. Unfortunately, transgender people facing homelessness also face discrimination from agencies that should be helping them, with nearly one in three (29%) reporting being turned away from a shelter due to their transgender status. While leading experts on homelessness recommend providing emergency housing consistent with a person’s gender identity, 42% of trans people facing homelessness have been forced to stay in a shelter living as the wrong gender.

Some initial steps have been taken to address these issues by the Obama Administration: HUD has required grantees including homeless shelters to abide by state and local nondiscrimination rules; the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has created and promoted educational resources on serving LGBT homeless youth; and the Administration for Children and Families issued the largest-ever LGBT focused federal grant to develop a model program to support LGBT foster youth and prevent them from experiencing or returning to homelessness. Far more must be done in the coming years.

Policy Steps

  • Congress should pass the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing and lending.
  • Congress should fully fund implementation of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, including expanding the nation's supply of affordable housing.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development should issue final rules explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in HUD-funded housing programs and requiring shelters to house homeless individuals in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
  • The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services should implement a unified homeless data collection system that includes data on gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services should publish and promote best practices for supporting homeless transgender youth.
  • Congress should appropriate funds to conduct the Prevalence and Incidence Study of runaway and homeless youth mandated by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 2008.

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