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Thursday 10 November 2016

LGBTI Housing Crisis

Posted in: Our Communities
By Craig Young - 27th August 2016

While dealing with issues of transgender youth homelessness and street sex work several years ago, I discovered to my dismay that accounts of LGBTI dimensions of New Zealand's housing crisis are sparse and unsystematic.

This urgently needs to be remedied, although we have not been able to do so in the context of the current Opposition party housing policy and homelessness debate. Clearly, judging from the fragmentary data that we have at our disposal, homophobia and transphobia are dimensions in housing policy discrimination. Theoretically, the accommodation discrimination sections of the Human Rights Act 1993 should protect lesbians, gay men and bisexuals from such discrimination, but it is possible that there is ignorance about the legislation's applicable provisions among LGBTI renters and potential housing purchasers. In addition, there is the ambiguous status of the transgender community in this context. We will need to await a Tenancy Tribunal case of alleged anti-transgender accommodation discrimination to apply the principles of Dakota Hemmingson's Employment Relations Authority case to the context of housing, as well as another to deal with the additional question of emergency shelter accommodation. This needs to be undertaken urgently. As well as that, there needs to be urgent networking of LGBT professionals involved within the housing rights debate, so that research can be designed, executed and provided for concerned individuals.

Why are we so behind the ball on this issue? Part of it is the reliance on legislative reform cues which have characterised our responses to discriminatory legislation and policies in the past, which have focused on directly discriminatory policy. However, this framework for political activity is not as useful when it comes to the LGBT political environment after the impending conclusion of direct legislative reform concerns. Once that happens, our communities will need to switch to a 'stakeholder' model of political activity, which focuses on how specific policies work to indirectly disadvantage or discriminate against LGBTI individuals and how policy and practice reform needs to occur to provide vulnerable LGBTI individuals with security of tenure and related safety when it comes to their specific situations. Until now, our focus has specifically been on isolated health policy items, such as HIV/AIDS, blood transfusion policy, HPV and anal cancer provision, and same-sex parenting and schooling for LGBTI adolescents. We now need to ask ourselves how some LGBTI individuals might find themselves either homeless or in sub-par housing situations, with reference to exacerbation of these factors when dealing with factors such as alcohol and drug abuse, institutional racism and economic inequality.

We have neglected this issue for far too long. It is time for action now.

Craig Young - 27th August 2016

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