Safety, Affordability Concerns Are Deterring LGBTQ Homebuyers

by Natalie Campisi

Forbes Advisor

Saturday July 17, 2021
Originally published on July 17, 2021

Stock image
Stock image  (Source:Getty Images)

There are copious housing problems in the U.S., like lack of affordable homes and skyrocketing prices. But these issues are often compounded for members of the LGBTQ community seeking homeownership, who've already faced years of systemic and societal injustices.

About 29% of 1,538 LGBTQ members in the U.S. reported they had experienced discrimination during the homebuying process or suspected they were victims of it, according to a recent survey by Realtor.com in partnership with the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. Of that same group, 44% of the transgender community said they had experienced or suspected bias.

"The LGBTQ community not only deals with housing discrimination but the fear of discrimination. Different generations have different experiences, which can hold them back," says Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. "There are 27 states in our country that don't have explicit laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, so you can see why people are anxious."

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was created to protect homebuyers and renters against discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. However, it did not extend housing protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, excluding millions of Americans who identify as LGBTQ.

For Weyandt in his own homebuying journey, he put off shopping for a mortgage for three years because of his fear of being judged or discriminated against.

"I personally hesitated to sit down with a loan officer," Weyandt says. "I was intimidated to sit across from a 56-year-old white man and be judged by him when he looked at my bank account statements and saw my receipts from a gay bar."


Safety Is Top Priority for LGBTQ Homebuyers

A major barrier to homeownership for the LGBTQ community is a fear of rejection or harm after decades of intolerance by communities and no legal recognition of gay marriage until just six years ago. This concern is even more pronounced for LGBTQ homebuyers who want to start families or already have children, causing them to pick more urban areas for housing where they feel safer.

More than half (55%) of LGBTQ respondents to the Realtor.com survey said they wouldn't buy a home if they were unsure about being accepted in the community; another 32% were undecided and just 12% said they would.

"These families want to buy houses; they want to have yards and live in safe communities with their families. But there is a fear that their children will be stigmatized," Weyandt says. "That's why it's so important for them to find places that are accepting and have anti-discrimination rules in place."

Members of the LGBTQ community who currently live in cities say that less urban areas are appealing because the cost of living is more affordable and there's larger outdoor space. However, they chose not to move to those areas because of a lack of culture and entertainment, racial and ethnic diversity, and acceptance. They also said they wanted to be in communities with larger numbers of LGBTQ members.

In general, real estate is increasingly unaffordable in urban areas and city centers, prompting an exodus to the suburbs and beyond. This also puts LGBTQ homebuyers at a disadvantage because they have to live in areas where they feel less protected, under-represented, or even unwelcome in order to access affordable housing.

According to the UCLA Williams Institute, the least affordable areas are also the most accepting of the LGBTQ community, such as Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Hawaii, and New York. On the flip side, the most affordable areas in the country tend to be the least accepting, such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Louisiana.

"The LGBTQ community is drawn to urban centers where there is safety and acceptance," Weyandt says. "But nobody can afford to live there these days. This is a big problem for today's LGBTQ homebuyers who want to own but can't afford these safer spaces."


Long History of Discrimination Has Stymied Wealth Potential

While there has been a severe lack of legal protections for the LGBTQ community, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order on "Preventing and Combating Discrimination based on Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation" on his first day in office, sending a powerful message that the current administration is against discrimination of the LGBTQ community.

Biden's directive was for all government agencies (that uphold federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex) to also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in everything from housing to health care. However, to codify these protections into law, the Senate has to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

"Housing is an essential need for people of all ages. Discrimination isn't just affecting young families, many LGBTQ seniors go back into the closet when they enter assisted living facilities. They're very vulnerable, and they don't feel safe," says Sydney Kopp-Richardson, director of the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative. "This is why the Equality Act is so important."


What to Know Before You Buy Or Rent

Last October, the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance formed, creating a vast resource for homebuyers who want to work with people who understand their needs and fears. This is a nonprofit organization of real estate professionals who are members of the LGBTQ community or allies (people who might not identify as LGBTQ themselves but support equality) within the community.

Major housing players such as Realtor.com and the National Association of Realtors have joined the alliance, a big step toward securing safe, affordable and equitable housing in the U.S.

The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is just one resource for homebuyers and renters who want to be connected with real estate professionals and housing opportunities, which is available on the website.

For homebuyers or renters who want to make sure they're moving into a welcoming community or working with affirming real estate professionals (from lenders to real estate agents), here are specific questions you can ask, and red flags to watch out for.

  • Ask if there are anti-discrimination policies and/or anti-harassment policies in the neighborhood, condo, or apartment complex. If they do have such policies, find out how they're enforced.
  • Watch out for statements by real estate professionals that are demeaning.
  • Find out how well diverse groups are being represented.

    "If someone is comfortable speaking negatively about a particular group, then they don't respect diversity," Kopp-Richardson says.