On October 29, 2019, the House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing entitled “Financial Services and the LGBTQ+ Community: A Review of Discrimination in Lending and Housing.” Witnesses at the hearing included Harper Jean Tobin, the Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), and Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign.
The hearing focused on the extent and effects of discrimination against persons who identify as LGBTQ+ in areas affecting their financial well-being. Building off of a recent analysis by Prudential, the Committee sought to identify and understand the reasons behind the high level of economic insecurity among LGBTQ+ Americans. The Prudential analysis reported that only half of LGBTQ study respondents owned a basic banking product such as a checking, savings, or money market account while two-thirds of non-LGBTQ respondents owned at least one such product. Furthermore, only 27 percent of LGBTQ respondents had an employer-sponsored retirement savings account compared with 41 percent of non-LGBTQ respondents. The Committee memorandum states that LGBTQ+ persons of color face even greater economic hardships, with 38 percent of black transgender adults and 43 percent of Hispanic transgender adults living in poverty compared to the 14 percent of white, non-LGBT adults who live in poverty.
The Committee Memorandum refers to a 2017 study finding that LGBTQ adults reported discrimination across multiple contexts, including renting or buying a home. Research published in April 2019 found that same-sex mortgage co-applicants were 73 percent more likely to be denied a loan than different-sex co-applicants and that same-sex co-applicants paid higher fees and interest. The Memorandum also cites studies showing widespread discrimination in rental housing against LGBTQ+ people. In the hearing, Committee members were also interested in the ways that transgender people may face barriers to applying for credit as they navigate the legal process of changing their identity documents.
Mr. Adams’ testimony focused on the economic hardships faced by LGBTQ+ elders, who reportedly lag behind non-LGBTQ+ Americans in terms of income, assets, and home ownership, concerns that only increase into retirement. Mr. David stressed the importance of access to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans to LGBTQ+ people of color especially. Committee members of both parties expressed concern about economic instability within LGBTQ+ communities and used their time to ask witnesses questions about the nature of the problem and about what steps can be taken to solve it.
N.B.: While the Committee Memorandum uses the term LGBTQ+, various studies use different labels to identify the same community; where any term other than LGBTQ+ is used in a source, the label used in this blog post is the one used in the underlying research.