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2014 National LGBT Conference
1 January 2014

Conference notes that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) housing problems are related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Increasingly, more LGBT people are having to rent their homes from a private landlord, because of the lack of council houses, social rented accommodation and other affordable housing, or the housing and local allocations policies introduced by the Coalition government.

For many LGBT people, private rental sector where there is no long-term security of tenure and no rent control is not safe housing, is expensive or of a poor standard. For example, even though more LGBT people living in private rental accommodation tend to be in full-time employment, over 40% still feel insecure and are facing eviction from their homes. If the tenancy is fixed term, the tenant could be liable for rent until the term ends, even if they leave early because, for example, they are experiencing abuse or harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Scottish housing law provided particular protections for LGBT people, but this is not replicated across the United Kingdom.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not simply private issues. They are core to someone’s identity. Unfortunately, LGBT people still face daily harassment and abuse because of who they are. Sometimes its from their landlord. Sometimes its from people who they’re living with. Often its from neighbours or people with whom they share a house. Others have to deal with inappropriate language from letting agents.

So safety is a key issue. Another is security of tenure. Tenancy agreements tend to be weighted in favour of the landlord: for LGBT tenants, this can make their homes even more insecure.

Due to welfare cuts and local housing allowances, LGBT people may have to share with strangers, remain in a hostile home environment, live in poor conditions or face homelessness. Homelessness for our community is a growing issue: 10% of those who contact Stonewall Housing Charity are living on the streets.

Conference believes that current housing policy and practice, and housing benefits provision, is often responsible for creating disproportionate problems for young LGBT people. People under 35 will only be entitled to the shared accommodation rate of housing benefit. As a consequence, it means that people under 35 will be forced to share with others that could lead to LGBT people experiencing homophobia, biphobia or transphobia or having to hide their sexual orientation/gender identity.

For transgender people, this will mean that they have to share with people – who may well be complete strangers – who are openly, and aggressively intolerant. At a time when they most need a supportive, welcoming environment, transgender people in this situation will be open to transphobic abuse.

Conference calls on the national LGBT committee to:

1. Raise awareness of the issues facing LGBT people with respect to housing and welfare benefit cuts;

2. Encourage branches and regions to campaign for safe, secure, affordable and self-contained housing with full housing benefits regardless of age.

3. Work with UNISON Labour Link to campaign to seek specific manifesto commitments from the Labour Party for the repeal of these housing benefit cuts, to build more council houses and social rented accommodation and to reintroduce security of tenure and rent controls in the private sector.

4. Campaign for equality impact assessments to be conducted – and acted upon – in respect of all housing policy and benefits changes.