September 22, 2020
Office of General Counsel,
Department of Housing and Urban Development,
451 7th Street SW, Washington, DC 20410-0500.
Re: HUD Docket No. FR-6152-P-01 Making Admission or Placement Determinations Based on Sex in Facilities Under Community Planning and Development Housing Programs
Dear Secretary Carson:
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition is vehemently opposed to this proposed rulemaking to the Equal Access Rule. For more than 25 years, NCRC’s mission has been to create opportunities for people and communities to build and maintain wealth. We work with community leaders, policymakers and financial institutions to champion fairness and end discrimination in lending, housing and business. This harmful proposal to change the Equal Access Rule, during the middle of a global pandemic, would encourage discrimination against individuals who are transgender and/or nonbinary.
The original HUD rule (Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity), enacted in 2012, ensures that HUD-funded shelters and programs are open to all individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. In 2016, HUD amended the rule (Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs) to specify that individuals must be accommodated in accordance with their gender identity. The 2016 provisions also outlawed invasive questions and requirements to provide anatomical information or evidence of gender identity.
This proposed rule change would remove the 2016 provisions, thus enabling discrimination based on gender identity. If the rule is finalized, people who seek help at shelters and are suspected of being transgender could legally be asked offensive and invasive questions about their bodies. Intake staff could then choose to turn an individual away based on their gender or even a worker’s perception of their gender.
Studies demonstrate that a significant proportion of transgender individuals already face discrimination from shelters. A 2016 survey found that 30% of transgender and gender non-conforming people experienced homelessness at some point in their lives; this rate was even higher for transgender women of color. Transgender people face extremely high levels of physical and sexual violence both in public and private settings. Over 25% of trans people have experienced a bias-driven assault, with trans women and trans people of color assaulted more frequently.
The proposed rule would require shelters that turn away transgender individuals to refer them to alternate facilities, which are not always an available solution. This proposed rule could create barriers to leaving domestic abuse situations and fundamantally legalizes discrimination at HUD-funded shelters.
HUD should not implement this rule change; it is a reversal of the country’s progress towards housing equality. This proposal would put already marginalized and vulnerable populations at even greater risk of homelessness and abuse. During a global pandemic, when the best tool for avoiding mass illness is to stay home, it is unthinkable that the federal government would make it more difficult for people to find safe, secure and much needed shelter.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important matter.
Jesse Van Tol
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)