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Austin Study Highlights LGBT Housing Discrimination

The City of Austin and the Austin Tenant’s Council are hosting a community forum Saturday focused on housing discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

It comes after a study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found landlords favored heterosexual couples over same-sex couples in more than 15 percent of tests.

A similar study in Austin also found LGBT discrimination.

Michael McCrory knows about housing discrimination first hand. He’s transgender and, on the day he came into KUT for the interview, was wearing a bright blue skirt that matched his eye shadow. His tank top revealed strong biceps.

McCrory has been living in his car and with friends for the past two years – after he says his landlord kicked him out for refusing to apply for disability benefits. He says, though he was paying rent, his landlord terminated their month-to-month informal agreement when he wouldn’t sign a lease mandating he pursue disability benefits.

“She decided my transgenderism was a disability and I’d already told her it’s not," McCrory said.

McCrory went to the Austin Tenant’s Council and the city’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office. They helped him bring an ongoing case against the landlord.

He says he doesn’t want to be labeled LGBT and he doesn’t want special treatment. What he really wants is work.

“I’m transgender, I ain’t asking anybody for anything special," McCrory said. "All I want is a fair shake to bid the work. You don’t even have to give me the work, just a fair shake to bid it.”

The Austin Tenant’s Council regularly sends out testers to report on possible discriminatory practices. They are just wrapping up a study focused on treatment of transgender people and same-sex couples.

“We did 25 paired tests where we had a heterosexual couple and then a same-sex couple visit different housing providers around the city and inquire about renting. In the tests that we did, eight percent showed that the heterosexual couples had more favorable treatment than the same-sex couples," Fair Housing Testing Coordinator Morgan Morrison said.

The Austin Tenant's Council found heterosexual couples were more likely to hear about specials or to get application fee discounts for being married.

Morrison hopes people from Austin’s LGBT community will attend this weekend’s forum and talk about their experiences.

While Michael McCrory is not convinced that is going to change anything, he does have a message to those who might discriminate. 

“You know they may not like the fact that I’m in a skirt but, you know what, they’re going to have to get used to it, because that’s the way it’s going to be," McCrory said.

The LGBT Housing forum is Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Faith Presbyterian Church at 1314 E. Oltorf St.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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