Five things I learned about Fair Housing in Alaska

Last week, Identity and the federal Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity organized a session for LGBTQ people to learn about their rights to fair housing under federal law.

The session was packed with representatives from the local HUD office, Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP), AARP, ACLU of Alaska, and of course Identity and Pride Foundation.

As someone who is currently attempting to buy my first home in Alaska, and someone who has rented for many years before that, I found the workshop to be informative and helpful.

The harsh reality is that Alaska’s statewide Human Rights Act does not currently protect individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This means it is still legal for employers to fire, evict, or deny funding to someone because they are gay or transgender. The good news is, while limited, there are some important federal protections in place to support LGBTQ Alaskans.

Here are my key take-aways from the session. I hope you find them helpful!

  1. The Fair Housing Act applies to both publicly and privately-owned housing. Prior to this session I thought that federal laws only applied to federally funded housing. It turns out this is not the case, as Congress established the Fair Housing Act to protect individuals in all housing transactions (including renting and buying). As it currently stands, the Act prohibits discrimination on the bases of: race, color, national origin, religion, sex (gender), disability, and familial status.
  2. The Fair Housing Act does not specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. However, the current administration will protect LGBTQ persons if they are living with HIV/AIDs, or are perceived as “gender non-conforming.”
  3. The 2012 Equal Access Rule extends protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. However, this is only a departmental rule, and unlike the Fair Housing Act only applies to HUD-funded housing or loan products. Extending these protections to all public and private transactions would take an act of Congress.
  4. There are many HUD-funded programs that protect LGBTQ people. Because of the expense of building new housing developments, and first-time homebuyer loans are popular, a number of transactions and living situations might be protected under HUD rules. To be sure, contact your regional HUD office. For people living in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington the toll-free complaint line is 1-800-877-0246 or visit their website.
  5. We still have more work to do. As the laws and rules currently stand, it is too complicated for a person to know if they may or may not have recourse from discriminatory housing practices. Even though federal HUD funding and the associated protections are mixed with many other sources of funding, Congress needs to act by passing laws that have broader reach. In our own state, we also need to make sure local housing agencies like the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation are extending fair lending and housing protections to LGBTQ people.



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