25 September 2018

By being open and inclusive with all tenants, you can ensure your LGBTQ+ tenants feel safe in their own home.

Stonewall Housing has been providing housing advice, advocacy and support for LGBTQ+ people since 1983. Despite legal advances, demand for our services is as strong as ever with client numbers increasing annually.

LGBTQ+ people share common housing issues with others but also have specific issues. For example two thirds of people who contact Stonewall Housing for advice state that their sexual orientation or gender identity plays a significant role in their housing issues. We’re clear that LGBTQ+ people make up a significant number of the homeless community and the provision of grassroots solutions like the Outside Project clearly show a need for inclusive safe accommodation spaces.

Housing providers undoubtedly want to do the best for their tenants and provide them with a great service. However, in order to do this, you need to know who your tenants are. This involves including questions about gender identity and sexual orientation in your monitoring surveys. Whilst many providers do, some still find this a problem. It can be particularly problematic when asking face-to-face questions. We’ve heard lots of ways it’s being asked – “I’m sorry to have to ask you this but…”, “I’m sure you’re not but…”. All ways of asking the question that ensure tenants won’t probably be answering them. In truth that’s about staff being uncomfortable rather than the tenant, so training is the key for staff to feel able to ask in the same way that they ask any other monitoring question.

In 2017, funded and supported by Houseproud (London), the University of Surrey carried out research called No Place Like Home which focused on the experience of LGBTQ+ social housing residents. 59% of survey respondents in No Place Like Home specifically stated that they had never been asked for information about their gender identity or sexual orientation by their housing provider.

We use the safe word a lot. Safe housing. Finding Safe Spaces. Building Safe choices. But what does it actually mean to be safe where you live?

We asked some of the people we work with what being safe at home meant to them. They said it meant being secure, confident, relaxed, not frightened, part of a community.

No Place Like Home also found that 60% of trans tenants and more than a third of LGBTQ+ tenants don’t feel safe in social housing settings.

So, how do you make someone feel safe?

It’s important that an organisation is ‘out and proud’ about being LGBTQ+ inclusive and there are some great examples of providers who do this. If the organisation is out there is a greater chance of tenants feeling able to be themselves. Being visible, including LGBTQ+ resources on your website, having LGBTQ+ tenants’ groups, and clearly demonstrating zero tolerance to harassment are all ways housing providers can help tenants feel more included.

Investing in good training for staff and committing to it, and signing up to quality marks like Stonewall Housing’s charter mark for housing providers will demonstrate a commitment to LGBTQ+ tenants and ensure your tenants feel more confident and safe where they live.

Tina Wathern

Tina Wathern is Director of National Engagement at Stonewall Housing

Why should you be an inclusive LGBTQ+ housing provider?