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High Hardship Among Black and Latinx LGBTQ Renters Underscores Need for More Housing Vouchers

Nearly 1 in 7 LGBTQ adult renters, an estimated 1.4 million people, reported they were not caught up on rent during the COVID-19 pandemic on average, according to Household Pulse Survey data collected from July 2021 to August 2022 (see chart). Black and Latinx LGBTQ adult renters were most likely to report being behind on rent. This reflects severe pre-pandemic housing hardship faced by both renters of color and the LGBTQ community. A key way policymakers can help low-income LGBTQ renters, especially LGBTQ renters of color, afford the rising cost of housing is by expanding the Housing Choice Voucher program to all low-income renters who need it.

Households containing one or more LGBTQ people make up 15 percent of all renter households and approximately 12 percent of households receiving federal rental assistance, according to a recent HUD analysis. Homophobic and transphobic housing discrimination as well as discrimination in other areas such as employment opportunities have left LGBTQ people with lower homeownership rates, higher poverty rates, and greater risk of experiencing homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ people. As a result, LGBTQ adults reported higher levels of food and economic insecurity than non-LGBTQ adults during the pandemic.

Among LGBTQ renters, those of color were most likely to report being behind on rent. This reflects the compounding effects of racist and anti-LGBTQ discrimination that sexual and gender-diverse people of color often face in housing and employment. Black LGBTQ adult renters suffered the worst housing hardship, with 26 percent reporting they were behind on rent ― a slightly higher share than among Black non-LGBTQ adult renters.

This is the first time a Census Bureau survey has included sexual orientation and gender identity questions. There remains a dearth of high-quality data on LGBTQ renters and the housing hardship they face.

Policymakers can push federal agencies to expand data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, employing best practices that produce quality data while respecting everyone’s right to privacy. Expanded federal LGBTQ data collection would also deepen our understanding of the LGBTQ community’s unique housing challenges, including the impacts of housing discrimination.

While unprecedented relief measures reduced hardship for millions of renters during the pandemic, many still struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Before the pandemic, nearly 16 million low-income renter households in need of rental assistance did not receive it due to funding limitations. Recently surging rents are creating yet more challenges for renters, underscoring the urgent need to adequately fund federal rental assistance programs.

Expanding the Housing Choice Voucher program would reduce housing hardship and ensure safe and stable housing for all renters regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.