Practitioners Cover Fair Housing, LGBT+ Housing Updates on LeadingAge Call

Regulation | April 22, 2021 | by Juliana Bilowich

During a call hosted by LeadingAge Maryland and Ohio, housing practitioners shared insights and updates on Fair Housing and LGBT+ practices in HUD-assisted housing.

In honor of April’s Fair Housing Month, LeadingAge Maryland and Ohio’s monthly “Housing Happenings” call featured housing practitioners on HUD Fair Housing and LGBT+ housing issues, as well as LGBT-affirming affordable housing models.

Fair Housing during COVID-19: VAWA and Service/Assistance Animals in HUD-Assisted Housing

Fair Housing protections have come into strong focus during COVID-19. Lisa Tunick, JD, with Reno and Cavanaugh PLLC law firm discussed HUD requirements and industry best practices for VAWA and service/assistance animal reasonable accommodations in HUD Multifamily Housing.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Housing property staff moving to off-site work arrangements during the pandemic has led to fewer “eyes on” with older adults, especially in resident apartments, leading to instances of self-neglect and domestic violence among older adults in HUD housing.

During the April “Housing Happenings” call, Tunick reviewed basic Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requirements for HUD’s multifamily housing providers. VAWA provides a gender-neutral set of protections for people affected by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and housing providers play a key role in implementing the VAWA requirements.

In her presentation, Tunick discussed various VAWA forms, including the Notice of VAWA Occupancy Rights and the VAWA Emergency Transfer Request, that housing providers distribute to applicants and residents at HUD-assisted housing communities. Although HUD has provided a Section 8 VAWA Lease Addendum, HUD has not finalized the lease addendum for Section 202, causing housing providers to borrow from HUD’s Section 8 addendum.

In order to maintain privacy protections, Tunick also recommended that properties be clear about those property staff who are aware of and handle VAWA status-related information for residents. Properties should also be clear about which external individuals can receive information about the VAWA-protected individual.

Service and Assistance Animals

High levels of isolation among older adults have been exacerbated by stay-at-home orders and community “lockdowns;” health outcomes may also have been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19, leading to more frequent HUD-resident requests for service and support animals.

During the “Housing Happenings” call, Tunick provided an in-depth look at HUD Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office’s Notice 2020-01 related to reasonable accommodation requests for service or support animals. The Notice, titled “Assessing a Person’s Request to have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act,” addressed some of the key questions from housing providers related to resident requests for assistance animals.

Tunick discussed the Notice’s recommendations on numerosity (whether it is reasonable to request multiple animals to provide services or supports), as well as appropriate documentation regarding the animal to provide service and/or assistance functions. Tunick’s presentation also walked providers through a service and assistance animal analysis and a nexus test to determine whether a reasonable accommodation should be provided, based on HUD Notice 2020-01, as well as HUD's accompanying fact sheet. A copy of Tunick’s presentation slides are available here.

LGBT-Affirming Housing Models for Older Adults

The LeadingAge MD and OH call also featured Sydney Kopp-Richardson, Director of the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative at SAGE. Kopp-Richardson discussed LGBT-affirming housing models and the challenges that LGBT+ older adults face, including historic employment discrimination and barriers to accessing trauma-free health care. These and other factors compound to create the need for affinity-based affordable housing options for older adults in the LGBT+ community.

Trainings and Toolkits for Housing Developers and Managers

Kopp-Richardson, who also joined a recent LeadingAge Housing Advisory Group call, discussed two LGBT-affirming housing communities that SAGE has developed, and reviewed considerations for practitioners who want to undertake similar developments across the country. She also outlined resources and trainings for housing development and management staff who want to strengthen LGBT-affirming housing, including cultural competency trainings for the entire housing staff.

Communities of Strength: A Roundtable Dialogue

In collaboration with LeadingAge and Hinshaw & Culbertson law firm, SAGE is hosting two roundtable discussion on Chicago’s LGBT elder housing network on May 11 and 13. Geared toward stakeholders from the Midwest Region, participants will hear from Chicago clinicians, housing advocates, providers, and elders as they discuss strategies to develop safe and affordable housing and aging care from a local perspective. Registration for the Chicago roundtable event is available here.

The LeadingAge MD and OH “Housing Happenings” calls take place on the third Wednesday of every month from 9-10am ET; they offer short, practical learning sessions for service coordinators, property managers, and other individuals who work with older adults in affordable housing settings.