HUD Implements Rule Against LGBT Discrimination
The Department of Housing and Urban Development became the first federal agency to implement an executive order signed by President Joe Biden that outlaws discrimination against people based on gender identity and sexual orientation, according to a report in The 19th. HUD officials told reporters that, under the order, it will enforce the protections of the Fair Housing Act for LGBTQ+ people who are seeking housing, according to the report. Officials said that housing discrimination against LGBTQ+ people was “rampant,” and that HUD would begin investigating complaints related to discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, the report says.
“HUD is the first agency to implement the measures in the January 20 executive order, a move that has as much symbolic meaning as it does practical significance,” the report says. “Before leaving office, President Donald Trump was on the brink of finalizing a HUD rule that would have allowed taxpayer-funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people. LGBTQ+ advocates widely expect the Biden administration to withdraw it.”
Homelessness is widespread among queer youth and transgender communities, the report says. HUD’s new rule relies on an interpretation of the Fair Housing Act that includes protections for transgender people, rather than requiring a new law. The Department said it would investigate claims dating back to January 20, 2020, a year before Biden took office, according to a separate report in the Washington Post.
“What the Biden administration is doing now is incredibly important, doing right by some of the most marginalized people in the United States who need access to federal housing programs,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Post.
Seattle Adopts New Limits on Natural Gas in Apartment Buildings
The Seattle City Council approved new rules limiting the amount of natural-gas infrastructure that can be included in newly constructed commercial buildings and apartment complexes that are taller than three stories, according to a report in the Seattle Times. The code changes will prevent developers from using natural-gas systems to heat space in new buildings and as replacements in older buildings, according to the report. They also ban natural-gas water-heating systems in new hotels and large apartment buildings, the report says. The changes are part of the city’s effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emission, and officials believe they will contribute a 12% reduction in emissions by 2050, when the city has committed to become carbon-neutral, according to the report.
Under the changes, natural-gas cooking systems will still be permitted in new buildings, but stoves will have to be placed near electrical outlets so that they can be converted to electric in the future, according to the report. As Next City reported earlier this year, some advocates have begun to push for replacing gas stoves with electric ones in service of both climate and respiratory-health goals. According to the Seattle Times, buildings contribute about a quarter of the city’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The changes give Seattle “one of the most forward-thinking energy codes in the country,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss, who sponsored the bill, according to the report.
L.A. Group Builds Unsubsidized Homeless Housing
A team consisting of “a market developer, a homeless service provider, a group of Los Angeles church leaders and a social-impact investment manager” is joining forces to build housing for people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, without subsidies from any government agencies, according to a report in the L.A. Times.
Their aim is to build 1,800 one-bedroom units for around $200,000 each — about half of what a typical affordable unit costs to build in California, according to the story. The team is “backed by a private equity fund that has topped $100 million and is still growing,” according to the report, with Kaiser Permanent, the healthcare conglomerate, contributing $50 million so far. The fund allows the developer to finance the units in one shot, rather than fundraising from various sources and securing tax credits and government support, which speeds the process, the story says. The units will have deed restrictions requiring that they maintain affordable rents for 55 years, according to the report. Homeless Health Care Los Angeles will identify tenants with housing vouchers and provide onsite mental and physical-health support services, according to the report.
“We have many clients that are sitting with a Section 8 voucher,” Mark Casanova, the group’s executive director, told the paper. “People have a certificate. They’re ready to find a unit. There aren’t enough units available.”
Kaiser Permanente is among a group of hospitals that have pledged $700 million to promote affordable-housing efforts, as Next City reported.
“We saw it as a very promising opportunity for innovation in the very low affordable housing space,” John Yamamoto, vice president for government relations and community health for Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, told the paper. “It presented an opportunity to produce more affordable housing at lower cost with less risk to the developer and to produce housing faster.”
This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.
Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.