April 13, 2011 at 12:33 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
HUD campaign raises housing non-discrimination awareness

The Department of Housing & Urban Development is launching a new campaign that aims to inform LGBT people about services related to housing discrimination as the department works to make final a rule that, in some circumstances, could provide recourse to LGBT people who encounter bias in housing.

The campaign, titled “Live Free,” kicked off last week and will run throughout 2011. The initiative includes Facebook ads, targeted print ads, digital videos, and podcasts. For example, one print ad reads “Should Gender Stereotypes Influence Where Your live? Learn More.”

John Trasviña, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said the campaign is intended to highlight the protections HUD offers against housing discrimination.

“We recognize that we can have all the rules we want, but unless people know about them, they’re not going to mean anything,” Trasviña said. “So, in addition to some of the actions that we’ve taken, what we’re trying to do through this public service campaign is to elevate our presence in the LGBT community … so people who have been discriminated against, or people who feel they have been barred from housing, will be able to know that they may have rights under federal law, and, if not, they have it under state and local law.”

The Fair Housing Act doesn’t explicitly prohibit housing discrimination based on of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, housing discrimination against someone who is LGBT may, in some cases, violate the law’s existing provisions, including its prohibition against gender discrimination. Additionally, 20 states and more than 200 local government have made LGBT-related housing discrimination illegal.

“While the person think it’s because of the LGBT status, maybe it’s because of their LGBT status and race, or they have a disability,” Trasviña said. “Rather than just saying, ‘We don’t cover LGBT cases,’ we’re now saying, ‘We will look into it and see whether we do have jurisdiction.'”

Trasviña said he couldn’t estimate the breadth of the campaign — or quantify in how many paper the ads would appear — because he said the campaign is just underway and the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year is still in question. The secretary also said he didn’t immediately have a cost estimate for the campaign.

As the “Live Free” campaign launches, HUD is in the process of implementation a proposed rule to ensure that HUD housing and programs are open to all, irrespective of marital status, gender identify, and sexual orientation. The proposed rule doesn’t apply to private housing, but HUD housing and programs.

The 60-day comment period for the proposed rule, which was announced in late January, ended on March 25. Trasviña said HUD has been examining the more than 300 comments it received during this period and said they were “overwhelming positive.”

“The rule itself is a recognition by HUD that our programs and our housing … are open to all families,” Trasviña said. “We want to make sure that that concept translates into the 21st century. So we want to make sure that 21st families, which LGBT members, are able to have access to HUD programs and HUD housing.”

Trasviña said the rule would be made final by the end of the year, but said he couldn’t give a more definite particular date.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • The true test of HUD’s new campaign for LGBT equal access is the Mission Gardens Apartments, a Section 8 project in Santa Cruz, California. It is managed by The John Stewart Company and administered by the California Housing Finance Agency under contract to HUD.

    At Mission Gardens, a gang of adult predators stalk residents who they perceive to be LGBT. They taunt them with homophobic profanities. They vandalize cars with LGBT hate symbols. They solicit neighbors with petitions to run (perceived) LGBT residents out of the apartment complex and off of the Section 8 program.

    Worst, using the crudest of LGBT stereotypes, they spread vicious lies that (perceived) LGBT residents endanger resident children.

    Like I wrote, the Mission Gardens Apartments is the true test for HUD’s new campaign to ensure equal access to (perceived) LGBT people to its Section 8 program.

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