David Montague is Chief Executive at L&Q, one of the UK’s largest housing associations.
The report Left Out – published this week by World Habitat – is essential reading for all of us who work in housing and who want to end the housing challenges LGBTQ+ people face.
Each of us will have tenants who are LGBTQ+, so this matters to all of us.
Our staff need to understand the additional barriers faced by LGBTQ+ people. By not proactively learning about – and addressing – what excludes LGBT+ people, we are inadvertently putting individuals at risk, as the case studies in the report clearly illustrate.
Inclusion is one of L&Q’s values, and we do our best to walk the walk – within the sector, for our people and for our residents.
Last year we committed to a three-year investment in Stonewall Housing. This will allow it to strengthen its advice and support services for LGBTQ+ people and continue to increase awareness within the sector of the housing issues LGBTQ+ people face.
In addition, L&Q’s staff network, Spectrum, has helped us become a better employer for LGBTQ+ people.
Last year, for example, it developed and helped implement our transitioning at work policy. It then led work to train our customer-facing colleagues on understanding trans identities.
Through Spectrum, we have also introduced domestic violence champions – so, if an LGBTQ+ customer has been affected by domestic violence, they can speak to someone of the same sexual orientation. We have found that this makes it easier to come forward about what is often an extremely difficult and isolating issue.
We also have an LGBT resident forum where a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers meet to discuss the housing issues that affect LGBT residents. From these discussions, we’ve been able to improve our policies and procedures.
And in the autumn – following our work with HouseProud and other housing associations – a number of pledges will be published for the sector to sign up to and deliver.
It is up to senior leaders to set the example. This is not a piece of work just to be delegated.
At L&Q, I’ve become a lead champion for equality and diversity issues and an ally of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans staff and resident network. It’s helped me bring our inclusion value to life.
Could you do the same, if you aren’t already? If you need convincing, please read Left Out.
Training your people and raising awareness among them would be great starting points – they provide the foundation needed to change systems and behaviours. If we all did even just that, it wouldn’t be long before LGBTQ+ people overcame the widespread discrimination they face and the difficulty they have in accessing appropriate housing.