Rows of HousesThis past weekend I attended an open house for Mary’s House for Older Adults,  a pro bono client in northeast D.C.   Mary’s House is the brainchild of Dr. Imani Woody, who plans to transform her childhood home into  affordable senior housing friendly to lesbian, gay, bixseual, or transgender (LGBT) residents.  This is the first LGBT-friendly senior housing project planned in the District of Columbia.  Ballard Spahr helped Mary’s House incorporate in the District, and draft its application for 501(c)(3) status.   Until  I attended this open house and started reading newspaper articles, I did not realize the extent to which LGBT seniors experience bias.  At the open house, people shared stories of LGBT seniors going back into the closet or “de-gaying” their homes so they could receive services without harassment and live without bias in traditional senior-only housing.  Mary’s House will be LGBT-friendly:  the project will exclude no one, but will advertise as being friendly to LGBT residents.

The effort to create Mary’s House overlaps with a growing recognition across the country and at HUD of the bias experienced by LGBT individuals in their search for housing.  The Washington Post reported that since last year, HUD has received 150 allegations of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that federal officials plan to conduct fair housing studies through LGBT “fair housing testers”.   Although sexual orientation is not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, an LGBT person’s experience with sexual orientation or gender identity housing discrimination may still be covered by the Fair Housing Act.   In addition, projects that receive HUD funding or that are financed by loans insured by FHA may be subject to HUD program regulations intended to ensure equal access to LGBT persons.

See links below for two great articles by the Washington Post, one about Mary’s House, and another article about John C. Anderson Apartments, an LGBT-friendly development in Philadelphia that recently opened its doors. Also below is a link to HUD’s June 2013 rule on equal access to HUD-subsidized housing and to an earlier Housing Plus blog post about the equal access rule.