May 17, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
HUD secretary speaks to gay Realtors
Shaun Donovan

‘HUD and this administration have taken historic steps in the area of housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality,’ said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan told members of a gay Realtors group on May 15 that HUD will release next month a first-of-its-kind study of housing discrimination against same-sex couples.

In remarks before a meeting in Washington of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, Donovan said the upcoming release of the study comes after HUD has adopted during the Obama administration a series of policies and rules that seek to ban housing-related discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal housing programs.

“HUD and this administration have taken historic steps in the area of housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality,” Donovan said.

He praised the NAGLREP for its successful effort to persuade the National Association of Realtors, the nation’s largest trade association, to amend its code of ethics in 2010 to oppose discrimination in the real estate profession based on sexual orientation.

Boca Raton, Fla., gay Realtor Jeff Berger, founder and chair of NAGLREP, said that at the group’s request, the NAR’s Professional Standards Committee and board of directors last year approved a proposal to further amend its code of ethics by adding gender identity as a protected class. The NAR’s membership is expected to vote on the gender identity proposal at the NAR’s national meeting later this year in San Francisco.

Donovan said the HUD study of housing discrimination against same-sex couples is based on 6,833 email responses from participants of a survey conducted in 50 metropolitan markets across the country from June through October 2011.

“I know it will be an important study both for what it tells us and for the increase in light that it shines on this problem,” he said.

Earlier this year HUD reached what Donovan called an historic legal settlement with Bank of America over an allegation that the bank’s lending division refused to approve a mortgage for a lesbian couple based on the couple’s sexual orientation and marital status.

According to Donovan, the couple provided all of the necessary loan application documents. He said Bank of America initially had no problem with the applicant listing her partner’s mother as a co-applicant on the loan.

“Then one business day prior to closing B&A denied the mortgage because it did not consider the loan applicant and the co-applicant directly related because the state didn’t recognize same-sex marriage,” Donovan said.

He said after HUD opened an investigation into loan denial, Bank of America agreed to a settlement in which it would pay the maximum possible penalty. It also agreed to “notify its residential mortgage loan originators, processors and underwriters of this agreement with HUD,” said Donovan.

“The agreement is the first enforcement action taken against a lender under this new rule and sends a strong signal to the lending industry that we will not tolerate discrimination in HUD programs on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status,” he said.

Berger said NAGLREP provides a national referral service for helping members of the LGBT community and others find LGBT or LGBT-friendly real estate agents. He said the organization has real estate agents and professionals in the real estate industry throughout the country, including in the D.C. area. Information about the referral service is available at naglrep.com.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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