With Friends Like HUD…

[u]BLOG VIEW:[/u][/i] Sometimes, the truly interesting stories are the ones that evolve under the proverbial radar. [/b] A case in point involves the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its focus on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community. Earlier this month, HUD announced a new guidance designed to help LGBT people who face discrimination in housing sales and rentals. The guidance seeks to clarify the Civil Rights Act of 1968 – more commonly known as the Fair Housing Act – by offering new interpretations regarding which parties are covered by this legislation. Under the legislation's original language, housing discrimination was defined as bias relating to a person's race, religion or national origin. The legislation was twice amended, adding gender-based discrimination in 1974 and discrimination aimed at the disabled and families with children in 1988. To date, discrimination based on sexual orientation is not covered by federal law, although 20 states, the District of Columbia and more than 60 municipalities and counties have their own laws banning this type of discrimination. However, HUD's guidance doesn't specifically bar discrimination against the LGBT community. Instead, it tries to reconfigure existing legislation to create a murkier example of what constitutes discrimination. In this case, a transgendered individual who is denied a mortgage can claim to be a victim of gender discrimination, while a gay man can state that he is being discriminated against based on a fear of HIV/AIDS – HUD cites this as a perceived disability which, thus, falls under the existing law on housing discrimination based on physical disability. You may be wondering about those potential homeowners that do not fall into the transgender demographic or cannot claim HIV/AIDS-related discrimination. Well, HUD also issued a notice saying that HUD grant applicants must comply with all LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination laws that exist at their state or local level. But what happens to those Americans in the other 30 states and thousands of cities and counties where there are no laws that specially protect them from discrimination in home sales and rentals? It seems that they are out of luck when it comes to HUD's help. But HUD is not alone at ignoring this situation. There was no place in the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Act to amend the Fair Housing Act to prevent discrimination against the LGBT community. One might imagine that such an action could fall under the umbrella of financial services reform, but Congress felt that it made more sense to invent new bureaucracies. However, a few people in Washington want to see specific change. There are currently three bills in the House of Representatives relating to this issue. One bill is authored by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties – but that bill has a grand total of two co-sponsors. The other two bills have no co-sponsors backing them. With this overwhelming lack of support, it is impossible to imagine any of the bills be considered, let alone voted upon. In a typical federal response, HUD is commissioning a national study on discrimination against LGBT people in housing sales and rentals. The department, however, is taking the scenic route to a solution by [i]first[/i] seeking out public comment on how to design this new study before any research begins. When this study will ever get finished is anybody's guess. Discrimination against any community is abhorrent, and there is no place for such atrocious behavior in today's society. And from a business perspective, such behavior is utterly stupid – at a time when there is a serious need to revitalize the housing market, the last thing anybody should be doing is shooing away qualified borrowers. If HUD – and, by extension, the White House – was serious about preventing housing discrimination, then the Fair Housing Act has to be amended to specifically erase the gray area relating to the LGBT community. In this matter, the federal government needs to grow up and address the issue in a serious, head-on matter. – Phil Hall, editor, [b][i]Secondary Marketing Executive[/i][/b] [i] (Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@sme-online.com) or via MortgageOrb's [link=http://twitter.com/MortgageOrb]Twitter page[/link][/i] and/or [link=http://www.facebook.com/pages/MortgageOrbcom/68898366697]Facebook page[/l


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