NAR Opposes HUD’s Rule Targeting Transgender People in Homeless Shelters

September 23, 2020

The National Association of REALTORS® issued a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday opposing a new rule that could restrict access to homeless shelters for transgender people.

“At a time when millions of Americans are at risk of losing their homes, the new rule would almost certainly force more people onto the streets and leave transgender people experiencing homelessness unsheltered or vulnerable to violence,” Vince Malta, NAR’s president, writes in the letter to HUD. “It would weaken our communities.”

Homelessness among transgender individuals has climbed by 88% since 2016, and 63% of the transgendered homeless population is unsheltered (which means they do not reside in a shelter or in transitional housing), according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Further, reports are growing of harassment, violence, and discrimination targeting transgendered people who have sought access to homeless services and programs.

HUD’s proposed rule would attempt to roll back the 2016 Equal Access Rule by allowing sex-segregated homeless shelters to make placement determinations based on biological sex and not gender identity. LGBTQ advocates say they are worried that transgender people will avoid shelters as a result.

HUD says its new rule is not discriminatory because a shelter that refuses to provide services to a person whose sex the shelter does not accommodate would be given a referral to an alternative shelter. HUD asserts that the “denial of accommodation solely because of a person’s gender identity that differs from biological sex is not permitted.”

However, NAR argues that in practice the rule would allow just that. “If the only accommodation offered to a shelter-seeker is one not matching her gender identity, where she faces heightened risk of violence or sexual assault, she is not being offered accommodation at all,” Malta writes in the letter to HUD.

NAR is urging HUD to let stand the 2016 Equal Access Rule, which ensures all programs assisted or insured by HUD are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status.

HUD’s proposed policy is outlined in its new rule called “Making Admission or Placement Determinations Based on Sex in Facilities Under Community Planning and Development Housing Programs.”

Read NAR’s letter in its entirety.

Read more about HUD’s proposed rule.