Housing Our Community: LGBTQ+ Friendly Housing Programs

December 3, 2021

Housing is a national emergency; we have reached the point in our country where there are more empty homes than people to fill them. That has not translated into providing housing for everyone, and as a result, we face a rising population of unhoused people. Our residents have a lower quality of life and navigate housing as a commodity instead of a right. 


In its first year, the Biden Administration has invested in several projects, including some in the nation’s Housing and Urban Development Department, to make housing more accessible to the LGBTQ+ community. One program that will receive more attention in the coming years caters directly to community members who experience discrimination in housing and employment, such as people living with HIV/AIDS. 


The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)


The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) Program is the only Federal program dedicated to people living with HIV/AIDS housing needs. Under the HOPWA Program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grants resources to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. The department is committed to fair housing laws protecting people with HIV/AIDS. Equality Federation’s efforts to decriminalize HIV/AIDS with national partners like SAGE, and state partners, such as Georgia Equality, TransOhio, and Transgender Education Network of Texas, allow us to focus on providing resources for transgender-centered programming that will enable programs like HOPWA to exist. Legislation to decriminalize HIV/AIDS makes housing more accessible; people with HIV have too often faced discrimination for seeking necessities such as housing.


Eligible applicants include people living with HIV/AIDS, fall within state income requirements, and live in mid-size cities with at least 2,000 HIV/AIDS cases or states with more than 2,000 HIV/AIDS cases outside of eligible cities. "Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), individuals with HIV/AIDS and their families are eligible for HOPWA housing assistance if they are low income (below 80% of the area’s median income) and the applicant has a documented HIV/AIDS status. HOPWA defines family as "individuals [who] are found to be important to that person’s care and well-being," which can include the family of choice. People can use HOPWA funds for several housing-related needs, including housing search assistance, short-term rent, mortgage and utility (STRMU) assistance, rent subsidies, or case-management needs. Awards are contingent upon the submission and approval by the HUD of a jurisdiction's Consolidated Plan. In 2016, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act modernized the allocation formula. For more information, visit the HOPWA formula Modernization page. You can contact your state’s point of contact here.


HUD'S PUBLIC HOUSING PROGRAM


HUD established the public housing program to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments for elderly families. Approximately 970,000* households currently reside in these housing units, managed by 3,300 housing agencies (HAs). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers Federal aid to local HAs that maintain the housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance in planning, developing, and managing these developments.


Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. An HA determines your eligibility based on: 1) annual gross income; 2) whether you qualify as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family; and 3) U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status. The HA will check your references to ensure you and your family are good tenants if you are eligible. This program has a slightly larger realm of eligibility and is not population-based. 


HAs uses income limits developed by HUD. HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low-income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. Income limits vary from region to area so that you may be eligible at one HA but not at another. The HA serving your community can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size, or you can also find the income limits here on the internet. To apply, contact your local HA. If you have trouble reaching the HA, contact the local HUD Field Office


These programs are essential services that allow our community to thrive. Housing advocacy work is done on all levels of our government, and the support for housing access directly results from local and statewide work. The work done by our state partners advocates for the expansion of programs like these and calls for deeper investments into community safety and wellbeing. 


Housing is a human right, and as such, we believe that everyone deserves safe and affordable housing. Equality must include ensuring that everyone can live without housing insecurity. 


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