December 10 2010 (Chris Moore)
The Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act was introduced into Congress on Wednesday which modernizes the federal Fair Housing Act in several important ways, including extending federal civil rights protections to people based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity, or source of income.

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) has endorsed the bill and applauds Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who introduced the bill, for his insight and initiative.

Currently, the Fair Housing Act promotes residential diversity and makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religious, national origin, gender, disability, or familial status. Yet, the Act does not extend protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, who often face harassment and violence from housing providers and neighbors or home seekers who intend to pay for housing with government assistance.

In the absence of federal prohibitions, landlords, real estate agents and mortgage lenders may offer housing on discriminatory terms to LGBT individuals, and landlords may blatantly refuse to rent to people seeking to pay for housing with veteran benefits, government-issued vouchers or social security.

NFHA President and CEO Shanna L. Smith stated, “Housing discrimination runs counter to the American spirit of opportunity, and instead is part of America’s dark history of senseless exclusion. This bill takes the long needed step of ensuring that housing providers can not reject people or subject them to discriminatory treatment because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or legal source of income. Housing providers can and must only use pertinent factors such as rental history or financial qualifications to make decisions about home seekers.”

In addition to protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and source of income, the bill would add the following to the Fair Housing Act:

– add protections based on marital status;

– reinforce existing protections for people who are discriminated against after they have already rented or purchased a home;

-allow the public to hold municipalities accountable for failing to advance fair housing laws;

– update the definition of “familial status” – a currently federally protected class that prevents discrimination against families with children – to be more inclusive of more family types;

– improve the Department of Justice’s ability to investigate potential fair housing and fair lending violations; and

– clarify and strengthen protections for people with disabilities.

Tags: fair housing act, protections, harassment, marital status, fair housing laws, familial status, disabilities