HUD’s New Rule Requires Transgender Homeless to Be Housed at Shelters of Their Gender Identity

By Melanie Arter | November 20, 2015 | 2:58 PM EST

Bunks are stacked close to make room for as many homeless veterans as possible at a temporary shelter for homeless veterans in San Diego. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new proposed rule Friday that amends its Equal Access Rule to require homeless shelter operators to place transgender people based on the gender with which they identify.

“A person seeking shelter is already in a very vulnerable situation, and they deserve to be treated with dignity when they request our assistance,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro in a statement. “This rule takes us one step closer to full acceptance of transgender men and women, and will ensure they receive the proper services that respect their identity.”

“Today, on International Transgender Day of Remembrance, we applaud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for continuing its work to ensure the safety and well-being of transgender people and their equal access to emergency shelter housing,” National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Executive Director Kate Kendell said in a statement.

“This day reminds us that transgender people suffer acutely from poverty, homelessness and violence – which are all interrelated. The anti-discrimination protections announced today are an important step in ensuring that all who seek shelter have a safe place to go, a place that will respect them for who they are,” Kendell added.

The proposed “Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs Rule (Gender Identity Rule)” was created after reviewing and monitoring implementation of HUD’s Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Rule (Equal Access Rule), which was published in 2012.

“The Equal Access Rule ensures that housing assisted or insured by HUD is open to all eligible individuals and families without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status,” HUD said in a press release.  

“Based on its evaluation of the Equal Access rule and consultation with LGBT stakeholders, HUD’s proposed Gender Identity Rule would require recipients and sub-recipients of assistance from HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), as well as owners, operators, and managers of shelters, buildings, and facilities with shared sleeping quarters or shared bathing facilities to provide transgender persons and other persons who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth with access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity,” HUD announced.

The Equal Access Rule in its current state provides “limited exception for inquiries about the sex of an individual to determine eligibility for housing provided or to be provided to an individual when the housing is a temporary, emergency shelter that involves the sharing of sleeping areas or bathrooms, or inquiries made for the purpose of determining the number of bedrooms to which a household may be entitled,” HUD stated in a press release.

The proposed Gender Identity Rule would eliminate the Equal Access Rule’s current ban on asking questions related to sexual orientation or gender identity, “while maintaining the prohibition against discrimination on those bases.”

“Like the 2012 Equal Access Rule that it builds upon, today’s rule continues HUD’s exemplary work in providing equal housing access to a community that is disproportionately affected by poverty, housing instability, and other socioeconomic barriers,” NCLR Policy Director Julianna Gonen said in a statement.

Gonen said she is “grateful” to Castro and HUD “for their leadership in ensuring not only the safety and security, but the dignity, of all who seek shelter through HUD programs.” She said she looks forward to working with HUD to strengthen the proposed Gender Identity Rule “to ensure that it provides the fullest possible protection to transgender and gender non-conforming people who need to access shelter housing.”

The public comment period for the proposed rule will be open for 60 days.