HUD tackles LGBT housing discrimination

The Obama administration is looking to tackle housing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new study in the Federal Register that will examine cases in which people within the LGBT community are turned down for rental opportunities because of their sexual orientation.

A HUD spokesman said housing discrimination is still a problem, though it is more "subtle" than it used to be.

"It's them being told, 'Guess what, there are no rental units available,' when in reality there are, or saying it was just rented yesterday and then a heterosexual couple shows up and is shown the unit," the spokesman said.

This is part of a larger effort by HUD to target housing discrimination, which can also be based on race, gender, or a disability. 

The HUD spokesman pointed to cases where landlords would not rent to pregnant single women or would not allow blind people to have pets such as work dogs in the home.

Federal law does not prohibit housing discrimination against LGBT people, but 20 states and 150 cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., have adopted their own laws providing for the fair treatment of people regardless of their sexual orientation, said Bryan Greene, acting assistant secretary at HUD’s Office of Fair Housing.

HUD also has a rule that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people within government-subsidized housing projects, such as Section 8 apartments, Greene said.

This is the second study the agency has conducted on LGBT discrimination over the last year.

Last June, HUD studied housing discrimination by sending fake emails to potential landlords to determine whether they held a prejudice against LGBT people. 

“The problem was present in every metropolitan area that we tested,” Greene said.

They would send some emails signed "Jim and Jack as opposed to Nancy and Jim" to see how the landlords responded and at what rate they responded, the spokesman said.

The study found that gay male couples are more likely to face discrimination than lesbian couples. 

Now, HUD is conducting a second study to find out how LGBT couples are treated when the look at a rental property in person, as opposed to sending an email or making a call.

HUD announced last week it is extending the comment period on this second study by 30 days.