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June 25, 2024

HUD's Actions to Gather and Safeguard Data and Support LGBTQI+ Individuals

By Gretchen Armstrong, Social Science Analyst and SOGI Data Action Plan Implementation Coordinator

Two women standing by an open doorway, helping their daughter with her backpack.The addition of SOGI questions to the AHS expands the opportunity to understand differences in homeownership, housing cost burden, housing conditions, and more. Photo credit: iStock.com/xavierarnau

As HUD marks the impact of the LGBTQI+ community on American society during Pride Month, the agency recognizes that many LGBTQI+ individuals still face barriers to obtaining safe and affordable housing. Recent research from a national survey indicates that the homeownership rate of LGBTQI+ individuals is as much as 20 percentage points lower than that of people who identify as straight or cisgender. In addition, LGBTQI+ people — and youth in particular — are more likely to experience homelessness. Until recently, however, HUD did not collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), limiting researchers’ ability to understand these issues and inform policy to improve the well-being of LGBTQI+ individuals.

In March 2023, HUD released its SOGI Data Action Plan, one of the first federal agencies to do so in response to a June 2022 Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals. Over the course of the past year, HUD either has completed or made considerable progress toward fulfilling the plan’s action items, including updates to data collection, planning, and coordination efforts.

Data Collection

One of the most anticipated updates for researchers is the addition of SOGI questions to the 2023 American Housing Survey (AHS). Sponsored by HUD and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the AHS is a national longitudinal survey of housing units that collects data on the characteristics, condition, and cost of housing and the demographics of the households who live in AHS sample units. Interviewers asked adult survey respondents several self-report questions about sexual orientation and gender identity and tested proxy questions for other adult household members. The questions included close-ended response categories as well as an open-ended category to allow respondents to specify additional terms. Adding SOGI questions to the AHS enhances researchers' ability to understand differences in homeownership, housing cost burden, housing conditions, and more. National 2023 AHS public use microdata and Table Creator tables are planned for release in September 2024.

HUD also has begun updating the data it collects from program participants with the understanding that data collected for administrative purposes introduce additional complexity. Although SOGI data are extremely valuable from a research perspective, they have no bearing on program eligibility, unlike other administrative elements such as household size or annual income. HUD therefore must take extra care to communicate data privacy safeguards to participants and clarify that they are not required to share SOGI information if they are not comfortable doing so. HUD has updated the intake form used for the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs to allow participants the opportunity to share gender identity information beginning in 2024.

Planning and Coordination

The SOGI Data Action Plan includes numerous planning and coordination strategies to align efforts within HUD. As the plan outlines, HUD has completed cross-office efforts to identify opportunities to align SOGI data across offices, and it will continue to test the quality of the collected data and revise procedures as needed. In addition, HUD has reviewed its current security practices to develop a consistent approach to SOGI data access and confidentiality protections.

The SOGI Data Action Plan also outlined the creation of several working groups, both within HUD and in partnership with other federal agencies. HUD established the Working Group on Advancing Equality for LGBTQI+ Individuals, which has been meeting regularly since May 2023 to review and prepare for the actions outlined in the SOGI Data Plan. In addition, HUD is in the process of forming a new LGBTQI+ Homelessness and Housing Equity Working Group to share information and create synergy among programmatic, technical assistance, and research efforts within HUD. HUD staff also participate in cross-agency efforts, including the Community of Practice on SOGI Data Action Plan Implementation, the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) Measuring Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Research Group, and the Office of Management and Budget SOGI Interagency Working Group.

Learning Questions

The SOGI Data Action Plan includes 10 learning questions designed to focus HUD's response to specific challenges that the LGBTQI+ community faces. As HUD seeks answers to the learning questions, program staff continue to create resources and generate research to help inform future policy and programmatic decisionmaking.

HUD’s work to address housing instability and discrimination has generated multiple fair housing and technical assistance tools, such as HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) LGBTQIA+ Fair Housing Toolkit, as well as resources for Continuums of Care that serve homeless families.

Several learning questions emphasize the importance of seeking feedback from LGBTQI+ individuals with lived experience. To further this goal, FHEO has conducted listening sessions with LGBTQI+ youth and young adults who experienced homelessness or housing instability and partner organizations to identify barriers to housing and shelter, and participant-identified methods of addressing those barriers. In addition, HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs sponsors a Gender Identity Standards Working Group consisting of diverse partners, including people with lived experience and expertise, advocates, researchers, and community and federal organizations, to support inclusive and responsible SOGI data collection and use practices.

The remaining SOGI learning questions focus on research goals. In its most recent Learning Agenda (2022–2026), HUD noted the need to begin collecting valid, reliable, and nationally representative SOGI data. Even before the recent data collection efforts to address these gaps began, however, the experience of LGBTQI+ individuals had been represented in research on specific vulnerable groups, such as the Housing Needs of Survivors of Human Trafficking Study or the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.  Now that the federal government has started collecting SOGI data, HUD will begin selecting the research priorities to include in its next Learning Agenda (2025–2030).

HUD’s SOGI Data Action Plan has provided the agency with a valuable structure to support its ongoing work to foster safe and inclusive housing and communities for all. SOGI data are key to understanding and improving the health and well-being of the LGBTQI+ individuals HUD serves.

Katie Visalli, Aniket Mehrota, Matthew Pruitt, and Todd Hill. 2024. “Why Are There Gaps in LGBTQ+ Homeownership?” Urban Institute.  ×

Veronica Helms, Emily Molfino, and Ben Winter. 2022. “Examining Housing Experiences by Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” PD&R Edge, 23 February. ×

Morton, M. H., Samuels, G. M., Dworsky, A., & Patel, S. (2018). “Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America,” Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago; National Alliance to End Homelessness. 2012. “LGBTQ Youth National Policy Statement.” Accessed 13 June 2024. ×

United States, Executive Office of the President [Joseph Biden]. 2022. "Executive Order 14075: Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals." Federal Register 87:118, 37189–95, 21 February. ×

U.S. Census Bureau. n.d. “AHS 2021 Public Use Data File.” Accessed 13 June 2024. ×

Title 13 of the U.S. Code authorizes the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct surveys and censuses and mandates that any information obtained from private individuals and establishments remains confidential. Section 9 of Title 13 prohibits the bureau from releasing "any publication whereby the data furnished by any particular establishment or individual under this title can be identified." The bureau reviews all data products to prevent the disclosure of any identifiable Title 13 data. ×

In March 2024, the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) Measuring Sexual and Gender Identity Research Group split into the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sex Characteristics (SOGISC) Interest Group (https://www.fcsm.gov/groups/sogisc-ig/) and the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM) Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Sex Characteristics (SOGISC) Subcommittee (https://www.fcsm.gov/groups/sogisc/). HUD staff now participate in the FCSM SOGISC Interest Group. ×

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