Tag Archives: hud

Trump’s nominee for Housing and Urban Development opposed anti-poverty programs

Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Housing and Urban Development has voiced little empathy for those who depend on the social welfare programs that aided his own climb out of poverty.

A retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson has often recounted his childhood as the son of a single mother in inner-city Detroit. In his 1996 autobiography “Gifted Hands,” Carson wrote of the humiliation he felt using food stamps from his mom to pay for bread and milk and said he began to excel at school only after receiving a free pair of glasses that allowed him to see the lessons written on chalkboards.

After Carson’s mother and father divorced, she received a small house in the settlement. But as her financial situation deteriorated, Carson and his siblings were forced to move into a succession of tenements and apartment buildings, some of which he described as having “hordes of rats” and “armies of roaches.”

Carson, 65, has not said publicly whether his family ever lived in federally funded housing or received Section 8 subsidies to help pay rent, but as a conservative political figure he has criticized such public assistance programs for creating “dependency” on the government among low-income blacks.

“I’m interested in getting rid of dependency, and I want us to find a way to allow people to excel in our society, and as more and more people hear that message, they will recognize who is truly on their side and who is trying to keep them suppressed and cultivate their votes,” Carson said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015.

Carson has been married for more than 40 years to Candy Carson and the couple has three children. Financial disclosure reports show Carson has earned millions in book royalties and speaking fees in recent years, with an estimated net worth of more than $20 million.

The former Republican presidential candidate has never before held elected or appointed government office. He also has no experience managing an organization with a multibillion-dollar budget and thousands of employees.

If confirmed as HUD secretary, Carson would oversee a federal bureaucracy that provides Americans with mortgage and loan insurance, distributes housing grants to state and local governments, and offers rental assistance and public housing to low-income families, the elderly and disabled. The agency is also charged with enforcing federal fair housing laws.

Carson has not detailed what policy changes he might seek to make at the agency. But in a 2015 opinion piece in The Washington Times he compared an Obama administration effort to racially integrate majority-white neighborhoods to past federal efforts to desegregate schools through busing students, which he derided as a “failed socialist experiment.”

With the help of financial aid and scholarships, Carson attended Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School before being the first African-American named as the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. There, he garnered national acclaim for directing the first surgery to separate twins connected at the back of the head.

Carson’s rise to political prominence began with a 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he gave a withering critique of the modern welfare state and the nation’s overall direction while President Barack Obama was seated just feet away. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Carson’s inspirational life story, Christian faith and anti-establishment message briefly catapulted him last year ahead of Trump and other rivals in opinion polls.

But his success on the campaign trail quickly crumbled amid questions about whether elements of his rags-to-riches autobiography were exaggerated or fabricated – including a purported childhood fit of rage that compelled him to try to stab his best friend in the belly only to be foiled by a belt buckle. Carson’s business dealings also faced scrutiny, including his ties to a wealthy Pittsburgh dentist whom he helped avoid prison time for felony health-care fraud.

The Associated Press first reported last year that Carson invested millions of dollars in real estate deals with Alfonso A. Costa, whose dentistry license was revoked following a felony conviction. According to required financial disclosure forms he filed in 2015, Carson and his wife made between $200,000 and $2 million a year from those real estate investments. Costa also served on the board of Carson’s charity, the Carson Scholars Fund, which provides college scholarships to children in need.

Records show Carson appeared as a character witness at his friend’s 2008 sentencing hearing, pleading with the judge for leniency. Though he faced up to 10 years in prison, Costa received a greatly reduced sentence of one year of house arrest served in a suburban mansion. Yet in his 2013 book “America the Beautiful,” Carson called for severe penalties for those convicted of health care fraud, including at least a decade in prison and “the loss of all of one’s personal possessions.”

HUD seeks to snuff out smoking in housing

Public housing across the United States may go smoke-free in two years if a rule proposed by U.S. Housing and Urban Development takes effect.

The rule would require more than 3,100 public housing agencies to carry out policies prohibiting lighted tobacco products — including pipes, cigars and cigarettes — in living units, common areas, offices and outdoor areas within 25 feet of office buildings or housing.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy announced the proposal earlier this year, opening a 60-day public comment period that ends this spring. “We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke,” Castro stated. “This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in health care, repairs and preventable fires.”

Cigarette smoking kills 480,000 people each year and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and cleaning the air, ventilating buildings and separating smokers from non-smokers cannot eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.

The only way to protect nonsmokers is to stop indoor smoking. A web of federal, state and local laws has extinguished indoor smoking in many places. Yet, 58 million Americans — including an estimated 15 million children — remain exposed to secondhand smoke, mostly at home.

HUD’s rule would impact more than 940,000 housing units, expanding on a voluntary campaign initiated by HUD in 2009. Over seven years, more than 600 public housing agencies — including at least 51 of the 123 housing authorities in Wisconsin — have adopted smoke-free policies for buildings and common areas. HUD estimates that more than 228,000 housing units already are smoke-free.

With a caution, the National Association of Community Health Centers supports the goals of the proposed rule. The association’s chief concern, said Colleen P. Meiman, director of regulatory affairs, is whether the rule would lead to increased homelessness.

“Smoking is an addiction,” Meiman said in her public comment to HUD. If the ban is implemented, she said any violations “should result in progressive action, starting with referrals to smoking cessation service” and “violations should never result in fines or eviction.”

In Wisconsin, advocates for the rule include fire chiefs, the Wisconsin Asthma Coalition in West Allis, American Lung Association in Brookfield, Westlawn Partnership for a Healthier Environment in northwest Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention.

The UW center cited a CDC study estimating that banning smoking in public and subsidized housing would save $310.48 million annually in health care costs associated with secondhand smoke, $133.77 million in costs for renovating and maintaining smoky apartments and buildings and $52.57 million in avoided fire damages.

The center encouraged HUD to expand the proposed rule to include e-cigarettes and other “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” with a reference to “growing evidence of carcinogenic and other harmful chemicals in e-cigarette liquid and vapor.

Many advocating a ban observed that secondhand smoke cannot be contained — that it travels through air leaks in ceilings, floors and walls.

The rule “has the potential to reduce health care costs, save lives and improve the quality of life for so many Americans,” according to Anne Dressel, project director for Westlawn Partnership for a Healthier Environment.

The partnership is a group of community stakeholders that has met regularly since 2008 to address health and environmental concerns at Westlawn, Wisconsin’s largest publicly subsidized housing development.

Dressel, in her comment on the proposed rule, said Milwaukee County ranks as the worst county in the state for asthma-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits. And the rate of asthma-related hospitalizations for children residing in the Westlawn community is about twice the county rate. The rate of emergency room visits for Westlawn is 1.5 times higher than the county rate.


HUD charges Wisconsin landlords with Fair Housing violation

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced on Oct. 14 that it is charging the owner and managers of an apartment complex in Cross Plains with violating the Fair Housing Act for failing to take action to stop several tenants from harassing a neighbor, who has cerebral palsy, and her daughter with Down’s syndrome.

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for a housing manager or owner to fail to fulfill a duty to correct and end the harassment of one tenant by another, when that harassment is based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or, as was the case here, disability.

The Fair Housing Act also makes it unlawful to interfere with any person’s right to enjoy their home. 

“A person’s home should be where they feel the greatest level of comfort — not anguish and fear because of being subjected to humiliating and degrading comments,” said Gustavo Velasquez, HUD assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Harassing a person because of their disability is not only disturbing, it is illegal.”

HUD charged Applewood of Cross Plains, LLC, William Ranguette and Candice Wood, collectively the owners and managers of Applewood Apartments, a 55-plus senior housing complex with 15 units in Cross Plains with the housing discrimination.

The case came to HUD’s attention when the mother filed a complaint alleging that she and her daughter were being subjected to constant harassment by some of their neighbors at Applewood Apartments.

Specifically, the mother alleged that several of her neighbors repeatedly followed her and her daughter making offensive comments to them. In one exchange, a neighbor allegedly told the woman and her daughter: “You don’t belong here…You belong in an institution.” In another encounter, a resident allegedly referred to the woman’s daughter as “mentally retarded” telling her, “You shouldn’t be out of your apartment during the day.”

Local police warned the offending residents that citations might be forthcoming if more reports were made, but the harassment continued. The woman also reported the harassment to apartment managers but rather than addressing the behavior, one manager began pressuring the woman to move, stating that he did not believe the woman’s daughter was capable of living independently and that the two of them were causing too much trouble.

The woman and her daughter moved out of their apartment after they were served notice that their lease would not be renewed.

A United States Administrative Law Judge will hear the charges unless any party to the charge elects to have the case heard in federal district court.

Appleton bans housing discrimination based on gender identity

Appleton has become the third city in Wisconsin to adopt rules against housing discrimination based on gender identity.

Seventeen states and 160 cities, including Madison and Milwaukee, prohibit housing discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

“Why now? There aren’t state and federal protections for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, so it’s up to cities,” said Kathy Flores, Appleton’s diversity coordinator. “People are assigned female or male at birth, and often that’s the identity that stays, but that’s not true for everybody. Gender is not that black or white.”

Landlords who deny rentals to transgender individuals face a penalty of up to $10,000 under Appleton’s new ordinance.

Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to adopt anti-discrimination protections for gay residents in 1982. But transgender residents still experience discrimination while looking for housing statewide, said Katie Belanger, president of Fair Wisconsin, a state advocacy group for LGBT issues.

Belanger said that transgender “people have twice the rate of homelessness, twice the rate of unemployment, and a vast majority of trans people have faced discrimination in every aspect of their lives: employment, housing and in public spaces.”

New protections for gender identity faced no resistance in Appleton, which has a population of 73,000.

HUD finds bias against gay couples in rental market

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on June 18 released the first-ever national study on housing discrimination against same-sex couples in the private rental market.

The study looked at how rental agents treated same-sex couples who inquired about apartments advertised online.

HUD said the same-sex couples experienced unequal treatment more often than heterosexual couples, and male same-sex couples experienced more discrimination than female same-sex couples.

The study was based on nearly 7,000 email tests conducted in 50 metropolitan markets in 2011. For each paired test, two emails were sent to a housing provider regarding a unit advertised online. The only difference between the emails was whether the couple was same-sex or heterosexual. Unfavorable treatment was measured by whether the tester was told the unit was available, asked to contact the landlord, invited to the see the apartment, or received any response at all.

Releasing the study, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said, “Following the president’s lead, HUD has taken historic steps in the area of fair housing to ensure that we fulfill our nation’s commitment to equality. As this study shows, we need to continue our efforts to ensure that everyone is treated the same when it comes to finding a home to call their own, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Bryan Green, HUD acting assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said, “A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be a reason to receive unfavorable treatment when searching for housing. HUD is committed to making sure that LGBT individuals have equal access to housing opportunities.”

HUD found:

•  Same-sex couples experience discrimination in the online rental housing market, relative to heterosexual couples.

• Adverse treatment is found primarily in the form of same-sex couples receiving fewer responses to the email inquiry than heterosexual couples.

•  States with legislative protections show slightly more adverse treatment for gays and lesbians than in states without protections.

• Adverse treatment of same-sex couples is present in every metropolitan area where tests were conducted, but no clear-cut pattern exists in the magnitude of adverse treatment by metropolitan size.

HUD announces grants for HIV/AIDS programs

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced $32 million in grant awards to assist more than 1,300 extremely low-income persons and families living with HIV/AIDS annually.

The grant awards, according to HUD, will provide these households with a stable living environment. In addition the grant programs will provide access to the needed supportive services in assisting with job readiness services and employment training.

The funding is through HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program.

“These grants will provide our local partners with crucial funding that is necessary to provide individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS a place to call home,” stated Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan. “The comfort of knowing that you have a roof over your head makes a huge difference in the well-being of families and gives hope to those who might otherwise end up living on the streets.”

Ninety percent of HOPWA funds are distributed by formula to cities and states based on the number of AIDS cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HUD’s formula grants are managed by 138 local and state jurisdictions, which coordinate AIDS housing efforts with other HUD and community resources. 

Overall, these resources assist more than 60,000 households annually to provide stable housing and reduced risks of homelessness for those living with HIV and other challenges.

In Wisconsin, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin was awarded a HOPWA permanent supportive housing renewal grant of $1,369,420 to continue providing tenant-based rental assistance and supportive services throughout the state. ARCW, according to HUD, will continue to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services on supportive services.

Bank of America settles anti-lesbian housing complaint

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Jan. 2 reached an agreement with Bank of America, which was accused of discriminating against a lesbian couple in Florida.

The agreement settled the claim that the mortgage lender refused to provide financing to the couple because the women are lesbians.

A news release from HUD said the agreement is the result of the first action taken against a lender under the department’s rule against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The rule, an Obama administration measure, prohibits lenders from basing eligibility determinations for mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

HUD general counsel Helen Kanovsky said the agreement announced Jan. 2 “demonstrates that HUD will vigorously enforce its equal access rule and pursue lenders that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. By the same token, BOA should be commended for stepping up and taking immediate corrective action after HUD notified BOA of the violation.”

HUD said BOA denied a loan to a Florida couple seeking to obtain an FHA-insured mortgage because of their sexual orientation and marital status. Because one partner was not employed, the applicant enlisted her partner’s mother as a co-applicant on the loan. The couple worked with BOA for several weeks to provide loan application documents and the couple was assured by BOA that they were likely to receive a mortgage.

However, one business day before closing, BOA denied the mortgage because it did not consider the loan applicant and the co-applicant directly related because the applicant and her partner are not married. Because of BOA’s actions, the couple was not able to close on the loan.

Under the terms of the agreement, BOA agreed to pay HUD $7,500 and to notify its residential mortgage loan originators, processors and underwriters of the settlement.

Also, Bank of America will remind employees that they are prohibited from discriminating against FHA-loan applicants based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

BOA also must update its fair lending training program to include information on HUD’s rule.

HUD announces 18 grants for housing for people with HIV/AIDS programs

More than 1,200 low-income people living with HIV/AIDS will continue to receive permanent housing as a result of nearly $33 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The funding announced March 29 is offered through HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program and will renew 18 local programs in 17 states, including Wisconsin.

“These grants offer housing, vital healthcare and hope to hundreds of households that combine to literally save lives,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Having stable housing can make all the difference to the health of someone living with HIV/AIDS who might otherwise be struggling to live on our streets.”

In Wisconsin, HUD announced a $1,310,577 grant to the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

A HUD release said the money for ARC of Wisconsin would support “providing tenant-based rental assistance and supportive housing assistance to 61 chronically homeless households living with HIV/AIDS and their families across the state of Wisconsin. A combination of supportive services will compliment the housing services through HIV/AIDS case management, access to medical care, substance abuse treatment, and employment referral.”

Donovan said the grants also support the Obama administration’s Opening Doors program, a campaign to prevent homelessness.

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‘Don’t ask’ rule introduced for HUD landlords

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a new rule for the owners and managers of government-funded housing properties: Don’t ask.

The policy bars property owners and managers receiving federal funds from asking about a housing applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which in the past has led to discrimination against LGBT couples.

Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the rule had taken effect during a White House-sponsored conference on LGBT housing and homelessness in Detroit in March.

The rule represents “a real demonstration of how important this issue is to me, to the president to the entire administration,” Donovan said.

“If you’re denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity – actual or perceived – you’re discriminating,” he continued. “You are breaking the law, and you will be held accountable.”

The secretary also announced plans for a five-year study on LGBT housing discrimination to get “a clearer picture of the problem.”

The conference, held at Wayne State University, also put a spotlight on the plight of homeless LGBT youth, a population estimated at about 600,000 nationwide.

“At a time in life when most young people are worried about which college they’re going to go to, what their first job might look like, or what opportunities might exist once they graduate from high school, thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teenagers are worried about something far more basic,” Donovan said. “Where they might be able to sleep that night—and whether they’ll be safe once they get there.”

The conference was one in a series sponsored by the White House. The next, focusing on safe schools, was to take place on March 20 in Arlington, Texas, with scheduled remarks by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.

New anti-discrimination housing regs become official

U.S. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan announced new anti-discrimination regulations during an addressing at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change conference.

Thousands of activists attended the annual event, held this year in Baltimore.

On Jan. 28, Donovan delivered a speech in which he announced the implementation of draft anti-discrimination regulations announced a year ago.

The changes include:

• Language that ensures same-sex couples and their children are recognized as families covered by federal Housing and Urban Development programs, including affordable housing assistance.

• Prohibiting owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, from inquiring about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant or basing a decision on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

• Prohibiting consideration of factors other than creditworthiness, including sexual orientation and gender identity, in the awarding of mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

“The new regulations from HUD will help protect LGBT people and our families in one of the most fundamental aspects of life – finding and keeping a home,” said Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign. “This common sense action will help some of the most vulnerable people in our community in trying to make homes for themselves and their families.”

For the record…

The following is a transcript – provided by HUD – of Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan’s address at Creating Change on Jan. 28 at the Hilton Baltimore in Baltimore:

Thank you, Rea, for that very kind introduction.

You remind each of us here today what a privilege it is to be partners in the fight for equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

And it’s an honor to be here – as the first sitting Cabinet Secretary in history to address the Task Force – and to speak at Creating Change.

Let me also thank the Board and Staff of the Task Force for inviting me and many of my colleagues from across the Obama Administration to participate in this conference.

Thanks to your leadership in convening the New Beginning Initiative, together we have made extraordinary progress, creating changes throughout the Administration that have improved the day to day lives of LGBT people across the country.

A Seat at the Table

The progress we have made together reminds me that President Obama views the fight for LGBT equality not as an issue – but as a priority.

You can see this commitment in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In his first State of the Union, the President called for its repeal. And earlier this week, at the President’s third, an active duty Air Force colonel who is openly lesbian sat as a guest in the First Lady’s box without fear of being discharged for who she is or who she loves.

You can also see that commitment in a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender appointments to positions throughout the Administration.

You can see it in a Presidential Memorandum on Hospital Visitation, which addressed the rights of patients in hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds—just about every hospital—to designate visitors regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take the necessary steps to improve the health and well-being of LGBT people and their families.

You can see it in the efforts we’ve undertaken on behalf of the transgender community, from the State Department’s efforts to ensure greater dignity and privacy for transgender passport applicants to the Office of Personnel Management’s announcement that gender identity is a prohibited basis of discrimination in federal employment to the VA’s directive to ensure respectful and non-discriminatory care for transgender veterans – who deserve our deepest gratitude and our commitment to their wellbeing.

And that commitment to the LGBT community doesn’t stop at our borders. You can also see it in a Presidential Memorandum promoting the protection of the human rights of LGBT individuals abroad – and in Secretary of State Clinton’s bold and forceful declaration that gay rights are human rights, and that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Perhaps clearest of all, you can see the President’s commitment in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention law.

I’m proud to work for the President who signed the first federal civil rights legislation that includes the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into law.

A Place to Call Home – HUD Accomplishments

I’m here this afternoon, because our President and his Administration believe the LGBT community deserves a place at the table – and also a place to call home.

Each of us here knows that rights most folks take for granted are routinely violated against LGBT people.

That’s why I’m proud to stand before you this afternoon and say HUD has been a leader in the fight—your fight and my fight—for equality.

Over the last three years, we have worked to ensure that our housing programs are open.

Not to some.

Not to most.

But open to all.

Now, some outside this room might ask: why is that even necessary?

Well, let me tell you about Mitch and Michelle DeShane.

Two years ago Michelle wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to the housing voucher she receives to find affordable housing.

The local housing authority denied her request. They told her that the couple did not meet its definition of “family.”

Then, the DeShanes were referred to a neighboring housing authority – because, as they were apparently told, and I quote, that housing authority, “accepts everyone – even Martians.”

That’s just wrong. No one should be subject to that kind of treatment or denied access to housing assistance because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And as the Injustice at Every Turn report you put out last year with the National Center for Transgender Equality, these challenges are all too common.

That report found not only that a staggering 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT – but that half of them report experiencing homelessness as a result of their gender identity or expression. Even more troubling, the majority report harassment, difficulty, or even sexual assault when trying to access homeless shelters.

Allowing this mistreatment to happen is not only wrong – it’s also not who we are as Americans.

That’s why, for the first time at our annual National Fair Housing Policy Conference, HUD hosted a session on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s why, in December, HUD and HHS held the first-ever LGBT elder housing summit, bringing together advocates and practitioners from across the country to highlight existing barriers and explore future opportunities to support housing and long-term care designed for seniors in the LGBT community.

Perhaps most important of all, it’s why we are conducting the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination – a historic and important study we designed based on feedback from town halls conducted in communities across the country.

Led by HUD Assistant Secretary Raphael Bostic, this study is partly about getting a clearer picture of the problem.

But it’s also about making the case – the case that LGBT discrimination is real and that we need to do something about it.

That’s why we’ve been reviewing our existing authority to address housing discrimination related to the LGBT community.

For instance, under the Fair Housing Act prohibition of sex discrimination, we have authority to pursue cases alleging housing discrimination because a person’s identity or expression didn’t conform with gender stereotypes.

And we’ve also provided HUD staff with guidance instructing them to carefully assess whether any LGBT-based housing discrimination complaints could be pursued through the Fair Housing Act or state or local discrimination laws – and launched a webpage on LGBT housing discrimination.

We know that these efforts are already having an impact.

With these resources we are helping uncover discrimination that had gone unreported for far too long and raising awareness that reporting such discrimination can make a difference. As a result, not only have reports of LGBT housing discrimination increased – so have the number of complaints we’ve been able to move forward on.

We’ve also required grant applicants to comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation or gender discrimination – covering 20 states that more than four-in-ten Americans call home.

Over $3 billion in federal funding is available in these grants – and we want to make sure as many dollars as possible are protecting the rights of every American.

Lastly, just as we’re making sure we understand the needs of LGBT Americans, we’re also making sure that LGBT Americans understand their rights as well.

With HUD’s Live Free fair housing education and outreach campaign, we’ve been targeting print and social media like Facebook, with videos, podcasts, and ads that address discrimination and let people know how to report it.

These are the first steps we’ve taken to ensure that all Americans—regardless of age, income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity—have access to choice and opportunity.

And I tell you today:

They aren’t the last.

Creating Change

Today, I am proud to announce a new Equal Access to Housing Rule that says clearly and unequivocally that LGBT individuals and couples have the right to live where they choose.

This is an idea whose time has come.

And before I go into the rule itself, I want to acknowledge Assistant Secretary John Trasvina and the rest of the HUD team for their extraordinary work to get it across the finish line, as well as the Task Force and other LGBT organizations for the feedback you provided when we solicited comment on the proposed rule.

When we first proposed this rule, we included a provision that prohibited owners and operators of HUD housing from inquiring whether someone is LGBT.

But as you made very clear, people don’t have to inquire to discriminate against them – that often, people face discrimination based on their appearance or mannerisms.

And so, first and foremost, this rule includes a new equal access provision that prohibits owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing we insure, from inquiring about an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis.

If you are denying HUD housing to people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity—actual or perceived—you’re discriminating, you’re breaking the law – and you will be held accountable.

That’s what equal access means – and that’s what this rule is going to do.

Secondly, this rule makes clear that LGBT families, like the DeShanes, are eligible for HUD’s public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people.

Third, the rule also makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting a mortgage insured by the FHA – part of HUD.

I’m proud to announce that this rule will be published as final in the Federal Register next week and go into effect 30 days later.

Now, I’m as excited about this rule as everyone here. But let’s be clear:

Publishing this rule next week won’t be the end of the process – but in many ways, just the beginning.

Enacting a rule is not enough. Training and education are essential to ensuring rules are followed in communities across the country.

And so, HUD and its fair housing partners will work to provide guidance and training on the substance of this rule – and the impact it will have for both how we administer HUD programs and also how we enforce our nation’s fair housing laws more broadly.

And we look forward to working with you on that education effort.

Reclaiming Our Values

For me, for my colleagues here today, and for President Obama, everything I have described is fundamentally about one goal which I’m sure will be familiar to all of you:

Creating change.

Change like the President acknowledging young black gay men’s struggles, and telling these men that their lives matter.

Change like a commitment to double down on our efforts to ensure the promise that we can live in an AIDS free generation.

Or when the President acts to protect the visitation rights of gay and lesbian patients.

Because no one should be separated from the person they love – not in sickness and not in health.

Change is a returning sailor sharing a traditional first kiss with her girlfriend.

An Air Force officer having her partner at her side when she gets promoted.

And a Marine introducing his boyfriend to his battle buddies at the Marine Corps Ball.

Change is the President and the First Lady and members of the Administration telling young people across the country that bullying is wrong, their lives matter, and it does get better.

Change is a world in which a young man like Matthew Shepard can grow up, fall in love, and live happily ever after, because the President signed into law the first piece of federal legislation in history containing the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”– and because his government has acted to bring us closer to a day when hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are history.

And change is President Obama and his Administration standing for equal rights under the law for committed gay and lesbian couples by informing courts that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Now, I can be as frustrated as anyone by the pace of change. Change is slow. Change is hard.

But the change I’ve been talking about?

This change is real.

It didn’t just “happen.”

It took vigilance and commitment – from you and from the President and his Administration.

As many of you may know, President Obama had inscribed on the carpet in the Oval Office a quote of Martin Luther King’s – which reads “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

At moments when change is hard and his head is bowed, I often imagine President Obama, looking down and seeing these words – and remembering to keep his eyes on the prize.

I mention that quote not just because I believe that progress I’ve described over these last three years proves its truth.

But also because we didn’t come this far because we hoped that arc would bend.

We got this far because of people throughout our proud history—people like Val Burke, Mitch and Michelle DeShane and the countless others whose names we’ll never know—had the strength and the courage to lean on that arc – and inspire others to as well.

Because the kind of change we need can’t be led by Washington. It never is.

It’s got to be led by people – as President Obama has said, by “ordinary citizens…propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard.”

It’s got to be led by you.

By me.

By all of us. There are no sidelines in these fights.

Like our President, I believe America succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules.

Those are our values as Americans.

They represent who we are – and who we aspire to be.

So, let’s make it happen. Let’s keep creating change – this year, next and every year going forward.

Thank you for this opportunity – for all you do and all I know you’ll continue to do in the weeks ahead.