House committee kills LGBTQ inclusive fair housing bill
A bill which would protect LGBTQ Virginians from being denied housing for who they love was killed in a House subcommittee today.
HB 1454 would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in Virginia’s fair housing law, making discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing an unlawful-practice.
“Home seekers should not be evaluated based on criteria that do not relate to their ability to pay their or be good neighbors. And not on their sexual orientation,” said Heather Crislip, President and CEO of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME).
After a similar fair housing bill failed last year, HOME spent the last few months studying discrimination against same-sex couples in housing in around the state. The group found a 31% rate of differential treatment where same-sex couples were treated worse than different sex couples.
But HOME Was not the only group to find data supporting a need to expand protections to LGBTQ Virginians.
According to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, same-sex couples experienced discrimination 16 percent of the time when seeking rental housing.
A HUD study found adverse treatment is found primarily in the form of same-sex couples receiving fewer responses to the e-mail inquiry than heterosexual couples, and while “no clearcut pattern exists in the magnitude of adverse treatment by metropolitan market size,” discrimination exists in all metropolitan areas.
The National Center for Transgender Equality found that one in five transgender people in the U.S. have been refused housing, and more than one in ten have been evicted because of their gender identity.
But opposition to expanding protections was present as well.
“I think it makes it difficult for a homeowner or someone who’s renting to know for sure they will have to start asking questions about sexual identity before they try to rent out a property,” said Chris Freund of the Family Foundation. ”And if they don’t, they are open to lawsuit and fair housing investigations can take over a year.”
Sponsored by Delegate Marcus Simon (D-53) (Top image), the bill was backed by new study by The non-profit fair housing group Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) who conducted a recent study showing 31% of same-sex couples received unfair treatment when seeking housing in the state.
Additionally, In 2013, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) had 27,352 housing discrimination filed complaints and there are many other instances of housing discrimination that go unheard. Of those complaints, 268 were based on sexual orientation and 27 based on gender-identity.
A similar bill fair housing bill, SB917, failed last week after a Senator said the change in law could violate a homeowner’s religious freedom.
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