A home is a place to relax; it's our own, private space, and a shelter from harm. For LGB and T people who may already be facing discrimination and harassment in other aspects of their lives, their home can be even more important as a safe space.
The fact that many LGB and T tenants face homophobia and transphobia and are sometimes subject to second class services is truly unacceptable. LGB and T people often face particular issues with housing. Below is an overview of these issues, and some information about how the Equality Act 2010 applies to housing matters.
Housing and the Equality Act 2010
The Housing Guide
Housing is an issue for everyone. It can be difficult for anyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, to find somewhere decent and safe to live. Many people are homeless or reside in substandard or overcrowded housing for a range of reasons, such as:
- Their housing options are limited by high house prices, particularly those on low incomes or on welfare benefits
- They can be priced out of the private rented market
- They can find it difficult to access social housing provided by local authorities and housing associations because of the significant pressure on these resources
- Situations change: people may struggle with payments for their accommodation, they may begin to feel unsafe in their own home or the living space may become unsuitable as the size of their household varies or their physical needs change
LGB and T people can also face specific issues in finding suitable accommodation:
- Most local authorities and housing providers do not monitor the sexuality of clients, therefore they do not have a clear picture of how many LGB and T people use their services, nor how best to respond to their needs when they are faced with homelessness
- There is limited research about the housing needs of LGB and T people but reports such as the LGBT Housing Project: Safe and Secure identify the specific issues they face
Young LGB and T people can experience particular difficulties in finding suitable housing:
- Sexual orientation or transgender identity can be a direct cause of homelessness for young LGB and T people - they can be thrown out of their home or decide to leave home to escape bullying and family difficulties relating to coming out
- Coming to terms with their LGB or T identity and the withdrawal of love and support from family and friends can lead to emotional or mental health difficulties, such as low self-esteem, depression and self-harming. Homophobic bullying has led to 26 per cent of LGB young Scots attempting to take their own life, and 54 per cent self harming (School Report 2012)
- They can put themselves in dangerous or exploitative situations to meet their need for acceptance and affection and they can begin to use alcohol or drugs to try to cope with or block out issues arising from being LGB or T and homeless
Older LGB and T people:
- People have difficult decisions to make about housing and care as they grow older. They may need to consider sheltered or other specialist accommodation or may need to arrange for a carer to visit their own home
- Older people often find that society believes they no longer have an active sexuality and it is assumed that everyone in older people's accommodation is heterosexual. This often leads to LGB and T older people being invisible within housing services or housing workers are uncomfortable about LGB and T issues, which intensifies their feeling of isolation and they fail to receive the services they need
- Stonewall's research, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life shows that LGB older people are less likely to have family or a long term partner willing to support them, which may impact on their housing situation as they get older
Harassment and violence:
- Many LGB and T people of all ages experience homophobic harassment and violence in their neighbourhood. Someone may know or suspect their sexual orientation or gender identity. Harassment can include name-calling, graffiti, criminal damage and over time even seemingly small incidents can cause extreme distress and fear, with people often too frightened to leave their own home. Homophobic assaults or violence may or may not be preceded by incidents of harassment.
- LGB people are often forced to be open about their sexual orientation in order to report a crime to the police or anti-social behaviour to their landlord
- One in four lesbian and bisexual women, and more than a third of gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one instance of domestic abuse from a partner
- Domestic abuse can be emotional, physical, financial or sexual. One of the biggest obstacles for LGB and T people wanting to flee domestic abuse is the lack of emergency accommodation, especially for men
- LGB and T people can also face marginalisation on multiple levels when trying to find appropriate accommodation; for example, if they are disabled or are from black, asian or other minority ethnic groups, or are travellers, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
- Lack of awareness among service providers about the sexual orientation or gender identity of their clients can mean they are not always aware of the needs of LGB and T people and do not appreciate that this can impact on their housing need. This can make it difficult for LGB and T people to get the right help and support and can lead to increased vulnerability
- Homophobia perpetrated by staff or other service users can also compound the difficulties faced by LGB and T people which may lead to them leaving housing services or avoiding using them at all.
Stonewall Scotland has produced guidelines on LGB and T housing standards, and on homophobic and transphobic harassment, in conjunction with the Scottish Housing Regulator.
Stonewall Scotland and Shelter Scotland have also produced a guide for LGB and T people looking for housing in Scotland: