Lovers, or Just Roomies? HUD to Study Anti-Gay Housing Discrimination

The Castro, San FranciscoWhile the U.S. military tries to figure out what to do about "Don't ask, don't tell," the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department is trying to figure out how to conduct a study on anti-gay discrimination in the housing market.

Last week, the agency began reaching out to to folks in New York, Chicago and San Francisco looking for ideas... sort of a study of how to do the study.

Unlike with racial discrimination, which is pretty, er, black and white, it's apparently not that easy to design a study about anti-gay discrimination. Are two men or two women looking to rent an apartment life-partners, or just roommates looking to save a buck? That's crucial because the whole point of such a study is to see if an actual anti-gay bias exists in everything from rental units to home purchases.HUD's assistant secretary for policy development and research tells the Associated Press, "This really is groundbreaking. Nothing like this has ever been tried before at this scale and certainly not by a federal agency."

The federal Fair Housing Act bans discrimination in housing but doesn't, at this time, cover gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, according to the AP. Once a study is designed, conducted and analyzed, the federal Act could be expanded to put these people under its protective umbrella.

HUD is "determined to ensure that a qualified individual and family will not be denied housing choice based on sexual orientation or gender identity," says Raphael Bostic, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, on HUD's website.

Bostic plans to visit the three cities, each with large gay communities, and host town hall meetings "to explore the issue of housing discrimination that specifically targets them." What he hears will make its way into the design of the final survey, Bostic says.

No date is given for when the study will be completed. But gay, lesbian and transgendered renters everywhere can take heart.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time to Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.
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