- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

RICHMOND — The governing board of the Virginia Housing Development Authority has voted unanimously to abolish its rule denying low-interest home-mortgage loans to unmarried couples.

The VHDA had been the only state housing-finance agency in the country that limited loans to joint applicants “related by blood, marriage or adoption or by legal custodial relationship.”

Supporters said that changing the rule would allow more people to buy houses by pooling their financial resources. They said it will make that option available to more single parents, minorities, the disabled and the elderly — groups that have low rates of homeownership.

Opponents had objected to allowing homosexual couples obtain loans from the VHDA.

The VHDA said it eliminated the ban because of changes in household composition, the availability of additional funding to write more loans and the flow of additional revenue that would be generated by the additional loans.

“Virginia is isolated in having this rule,” board member Jay Fisette said in urging commissioners to approve the change Friday.

Mr. Fisette said there was broad support for abolishing the restriction among financial institutions, real estate agents, developers, and advocacy and church organizations that called the VHDA.

“This is not something generated by a radical homosexual advocacy group,” he said.

Mr. Fisette, a member of the Arlington County Board, said he is homosexual and has been in a 20-year relationship. “To those who are scared of me, I apologize and ask that we work together to solve our real problems,” he said.

Mr. Fisette said the board’s vote “has no implication for the definition of family in the state.”

“That’s a red herring,” he said.

Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, a homosexual advocacy group, said, “By eliminating this discriminatory rule, hundreds, if not thousands, of low-income Virginians, gay and straight, black and white, can now move into the home of their dreams.”

The change also was supported by Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Thirty-five persons spoke at a VHDA public hearing Thursday, with 27 supporting eliminating the rule and eight asking the agency’s board of commissioners to keep it.

Of the eight persons who spoke in favor of keeping the rule, six said they represented religious groups or referred to the Bible in their comments.

The VHDA, a nonprofit entity created by the General Assembly in 1972, underwrites mortgage loans to low- and middle-income residents.

The loans are funded by bonds, and the agency does not receive tax funds.

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