Locked Out: How the Disproportionate Criminalization of Trans People Thwarts Equal Access to Federally Subsidized Housing
Volume 87, No. 1, Fall 2014
By Dina Kopansky, J.D. Candidate, Temple University Beasley School of Law, 2015 [PDF]

Low-income trans people living at intersections of marginalization face heightened surveillance, violence, policing, and resultant interactions with the criminal justice system as a daily reality. Often already balancing unemployment, long-term poverty, and homelessness, such disproportionate criminalization is one more barrier to survival for low-income trans people. As a result, federally subsidized housing programs have the potential to be a critical resource for the safety and stability of the most vulnerable members of trans communities. Federally subsidized housing programs, overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are a scarce and important source of support for the poorest Americans. To protect this resource from discriminatory practices, HUD released the Equal Access rule (EAR) in 2012, stating that subsidized housing providers could not discriminate against tenants or applicants on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Now, federal housing providers can face repercussions for discriminating against trans people based on their actual or perceived gender identity. However, the scarcity of subsidized housing has also led HUD to substantially limit access to its programs. Under HUD’s “One-Strike” policy, applicants for or tenants in subsidized housing programs are regularly rejected or evicted for even one past instance of criminal activity. Many poor trans people have at least one such past instance of criminal activity stemming from their positions within several marginalized communities. For those low-income trans people, the coexistence of the One-Strike policy and the EAR creates a major conflict for subsidized housing access…