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Real estate market adds to transgender Americans’ housing crisis

A for sale sign is posted in front of a home in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Record home prices and rising rents are hurting the ability of Americans nationwide to secure housing, and they are hitting one vulnerable group especially hard.

LGBTQ Americans in nearly half of the U.S. can already be evicted, denied home loans and turned away from rentals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity — including in states like Idaho, Montana and Arizona, where average year-over-year home prices have skyrocketed nearly 30 percent.

Transgender people often bear the brunt of this type of discrimination.

Already limited in their ability to find housing, soaring prices are putting them in an even tighter bind.

“Trans folks were kind of never well-poised to be a part of the homeownership market, but certainly during the pandemic and with affordability issues, it’s gotten worse over time,” Jody Herman, a researcher at the Williams Institute focusing on gender identity, told The Hill.

An already compressed housing market tightened dramatically following pandemic disruptions to global supply chains that drove up the cost of building materials and labor, putting homeownership out of reach for average Americans. While the national median sales price of a home rose marginally to $329,000 during the first quarter of 2020, that number shot to $455,000 in the third quarter of 2022, according to the Census Bureau.

“Like members of all marginalized communities, what was hard under normal circumstances, is harder in a tight market,” Kris Keniray of the Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research in Cleveland told The Hill in an email, referring to the LGBTQ community’s struggle in the current housing market.

“We’re hearing from folks every day at our office saying they’ve rented their entire adult lives and never had such a hard time finding housing when they needed or wanted to move,” Keniray added.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws in place that prevent housing discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group.

One state, Wisconsin, prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.

Another eight states have adopted the Supreme Court’s rationale in Bostock v. Clayton County — the landmark 2020 decision protecting employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity — and will accept and review complaints alleging sex-based housing discrimination despite not having an official policy in place.

Still, transgender Americans continue to face employment discrimination at higher rates than their cisgender peers, and close to 30 percent live at or below the poverty line, according to a 2019 analysis.

While limited information exists on the actual number of transgender people experiencing homelessness, a 2020 Williams Institute report found that roughly 8 percent of transgender adults surveyed reported being unhoused at least once over the last year. A report from the National Coalition to End Homelessness the same year found that the number of transgender people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. had risen by more than 80 percent from 2016 levels.

But even wealthier transgender adults often face unique barriers to accessing housing, with 1 in 5 reporting experiencing housing discrimination, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s (NCTE) 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey — the only nationally representative survey of transgender Americans. More than 1 in 10 said they were evicted because of their gender identity.

“Transgender people tend to be more economically disadvantaged than cis folks, but even trans folks who are well-positioned to get an apartment or a home might experience discrimination in the process,” the Williams Institute’s Herman, also one of the NCTE survey’s investigators, said.

“One would hope that the interpretation of unlawful sex discrimination at the federal level might have a chilling effect on discriminatory behavior,” she added, referring to the Bostock decision, “but sometimes it takes some effort to make change on the ground and change people’s behaviors.”

In guidance released early this year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development promised to accept and investigate “all legally sufficient claims” of sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on race or sex.

Real estate market trends

Overall trends in the housing market are expected to worsen. Economists say home prices and rents will continue their upward trend over the next year, with rents rising fastest.  A forecast from Realtor.com projects home prices will increase nationwide by 5.4 percent, while rents are projected to increase by 6.5 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s effort to curb inflation has sent mortgage rates soaring and made monthly payments unaffordable for many amid already high prices. If average mortgage rates hold at some economists’ predictions next year, Americans could be looking at monthly payments that are 28 percent higher than 2022 at $2,430, according to the Realtor.com forecast.

The prospect of these massive monthly payments has already pushed many Americans back into the rental market, exacerbating a supply-crunched market that experts say is experiencing growth well above pre-pandemic levels.

However, rents grew at their slowest pace in more than a year in October, data shows, with the U.S. median rent hitting $1,734. Yet they are growing 1.5 times faster than at the beginning of the pandemic and have increased by 23.5 percent since 2019.

recent survey shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans who have been in their homes for at least 12 months saw their rents increase. And close to 70 percent of landlords plan to raise costs to keep up with inflation.

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