The impact of HUD’s anti-discrimination rules on Pittsburgh and Allegheny County

OK, folks, so finally we see some payoff from the Allegheny County Anti-Discrimination ordinance in practical terms.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued new rules requiring grant recipients to comply with local anti-discrimination laws.

Traditionally, HUD requires all applicants for competitive grant funding to comply with all applicable federal fair housing and civil rights requirements including those expressed in Fair Housing Act; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now HUD will further stipulate that applicants and their sub-recipients must comply with state or local laws proscribing housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is estimated there are approximately 20 states and the District of Columbia that have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation discrimination. In addition, 12 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

HUD’s General Section will not consider an applicant’s submission if they fail to meet minimum thresholds which will now include being able to demonstrate that they have not been charged with a systemic violation of state or local law proscribing discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

This means all local HUD grant recipients will be forced to comply with the City and County ordinances that protect these classes.  I once sat on a HUD revew committee and several of the applicants were faith based organizatons so it will be fascinating to watch the various loopholes shake themselves out in light of this far-reaching federal mandate. 

It also adds some teeth to local Section 8 voucher recipients who might encounter, shall we say, resistance, from landlords who don't want to move a gay family into their property (they aren't supposed to have a choice to reject applicants, but let's be serious). 

This is like a federal matching grant in its awesome implications.  None of these grant recipients can sidestep the local law by playing the federal Fair Housing Act card. Inspiring news for local fair housing advocates who have worked tirelessly to build these (and other protections) into local ordinances, place by place while the Fair Housing Act itself is what needs to change.  HUD can't change legislation, but this powerful move sends positive signs about future directions when the Act comes up for reauthorization.

My hat is off once again to Allegheny County Council for paving the way to ensure fair housing for economically vulnerable folks in the County. 

One last fact. Some HUD grant recipients play ball in multiple counties.  The easiest thing to implement will be program wide non-discrimination rather than cherry picking locations that don't have these expansive protections.  We'll see what happens …



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