HUD’s Equal Access Assessment Tool &
Why it’s Important

Mary Ann Priester

Senior Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services

On March 8th, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the updated, web-based, Equal Access Assessment Tool (EAAT). The EAAT can play a crucial role in promoting accountability, identifying areas for improvement, and supporting organizations in their efforts to provide inclusive and equitable services to individuals accessing shelter and services in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

This blog provides an overview of the tool, what it assesses, and why it’s important.


HUD’s Equal Access Rule, formally titled “Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity,” was implemented in February 2012. This rule aimed to ensure that individuals would not face discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in HUD-funded housing programs.

Specifically, the rule mandates that HUD’s housing programs are open to all eligible individuals and families, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. It’s goal is to promote fairness, equality, and inclusivity in accessing housing assistance and services provided by HUD.

The 2012 Equal Access Rule prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and aimed to create safer and more supportive environments for LGBTQ+ individuals and families seeking housing assistance. It represented a significant step forward in advancing civil rights protections for marginalized communities within the realm of housing access and affordability.


In September 2016, HUD published a final rule in the Federal Register entitled “Equal Access in Accordance with an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs“. This rule builds on the February 2012 Equal Access to Housing rule and ensures that individuals have equal access to programs and shelters funded under HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD). It applies to all programs that are funded through the following HUD programs: Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HUD HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Continuum of Care (CoC), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), and Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The rule prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in programs and shelters that receive funding through HUD’s CPD and aims to promote inclusivity and fairness to ensure that individuals can access housing and community development programs without facing discrimination due to their gender identity. It mandates that recipients and subrecipients of CPD funding and owners, operators, and managers of shelters and other facilities, must adhere to certain requirements to ensure equal access based on gender identity.

These requirements aim to create safe, inclusive, and supportive environments for all individuals and include:

  • Equal Access Based on Gender Identity: Shelters and facilities must grant equal access to their services, accommodations, and facilities based on an individual’s gender identity. This means that transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals must be allowed access to facilities, programs, and services consistent with their gender identity.
  • Provision of Safe and Appropriate Accommodations: Shelters and facilities must provide safe and appropriate accommodations for individuals based on their gender identity. This may include access to gender-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms and sleeping quarters) that align with the individual’s gender identity.
  • Privacy and Dignity: Individuals accessing shelters and facilities must be treated with respect for their privacy and dignity. This includes using appropriate language, respecting chosen names and pronouns, and providing confidentiality regarding an individual’s gender identity.
  • Training and Education: Shelter staff, managers, and operators should receive training and education on LGBTQ+ cultural competency and sensitivity to ensure they can provide inclusive and supportive services to all individuals, regardless of gender identity.


In March 2024, HUD released an updated, web-based version of the Equal Access Assessment Tool (EAAT). The EAAT is an online assessment that can be used to identify action steps needed to ensure compliance with the Equal Access Rule in shelters and facility settings. It assists organizations in evaluating their adherence to both regulations and best practices.

The tool evaluates organizations in the following equal access topic areas:

  • Ensuring Access: assesses ability to meet the needs of individuals of all genders; inclusivity of outreach and engagement strategies; implementation of gender affirming practices; physical accessibility for all genders; and cultural competence of staff in addressing the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
  • Harassment Policy: evaluates whether policies are in place that specifically address harassment and discrimination based on gender identity and include definitions of harassment, reporting procedures, standards for response and resolution, and staff education on harassment and discrimination.
  • Managing and Resolving Violations: evaluates the effectiveness of procedures for managing and addressing violations of the equal access rule including policies promoting accountability and compliance with non-discrimination standards.
  • Confidentiality Practices: evaluates policies and procedures related to maintaining the confidentiality of personal information and sensitive data for data collection, data storage, and data use and disclosure.
  • Data Collection: assesses procedures and practices related to collecting, maintaining, and utilizing data to ensure data is collected and managed data responsibly, ethically, and in accordance with relevant privacy laws and regulations, and used to support the delivery of effective and equitable programming.
  • Privacy and Safety Practices: assesses policies, procedures, and practices related to ensuring the privacy and safety of individuals including facility safety measures and security protocols, privacy policies, and confidentiality and gender-affirming practices.
  • Facility Enhancements: evaluates the physical environment and accommodations to ensure they are inclusive and accessible for individuals of all genders including accessibility features, safety measures, privacy considerations, the cultural sensitivity of the physical environment, and the comfort and well-being of the physical environment.


The EAAT provides a standardized framework for evaluating compliance with HUD’s Equal Access Rule in shelters and similar facility settings. While mandated for specific HUD funded programs, the EAAT can be used by all organizations providing shelter and services to assess whether their practices and procedures align with legal requirements and best practices for providing equal access to shelter and services. The assessment is an important first step in assessing strengths, identifying opportunities for improvement, and developing action steps to ensure the provision of inclusive and equitable services in Mecklenburg County.