LGBTQ Real Estate, Family, and the American Dream of Homeownership
During the latter weeks of the year, there is an increased emphasis on the concept of being home for the holidays. Generations of a family and a circle of friends gather for seasonal celebrations, reliving the annual protocols of the Thanksgiving feast, Christmas, Hanukah, and other traditional holidays include decorations and music, festively wrapped gifts and the crescendo with the transition from the fading old year into a bright new year.
For the contemporary LGBTQ community, the traditions from this time of the year permeate their households. But it was not that long ago that this community was denied the right to enjoy this time of year with the same depth and scope as the rest of the country.
Prior to the Stonewall uprising in 1969, LGBTQ people had a lose-lose situation: be open about their identity and run the risk of losing their jobs, housing, families and friends, and even their freedom, or live a closeted existence with the hope that they could compartmentalize their identity in a manner where it could be kept secret from the important people in their lives.
Stonewall marked a seismic shift for the LGBTQ community, with the so-called “gay liberation” movement encouraging men and women to be open and unapologetic about their sexual orientation. Slowly – perhaps too slowly – both societal attitudes and state and local laws began to change. Wisconsin became the first state in 1982 to outlaw employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, while New Jersey was the first state in 1997 to expressly authorize joint adoption by same-sex couples and Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004. Into the 21st century, federal laws and court rulings helped iron out the rough patchwork of states that extended civil rights to the LGBTQ community and states that passed laws expressly refusing to consider those rights.
But these changes in the law also created something that many people may not have expected: the transition of the LGBTQ household into a mirror of the traditional family structure. The pursuit of the American dream became a focus of this community – a 2021 NAGLREP survey found about 72% of surveyed LGBTQ renters said they wanted to own a home. While the survey found the 49% LGBTQ homeownership rate is far below the 66% national average, it is slightly above the 45.2% for Black Americans and 48.7% for Hispanic Americans.
While data from the National Association of Realtors determined that LGBTQ homebuyers were much more likely to have purchased residences in urban and less likely to have bought in small towns or rural areas, empirical evidence is finding a growing presence of LGBTQ households outside of urban centers – and a greater welcoming attitude from many schools, businesses and houses of worship. Smaller towns across the country have seen a percolating wave of rainbow flags flying outside of homes and Pride observances in June.
NAGLREP Founder Jeff Berger says “Family formation within the LGBT community is a main driver of LGBT’s and their important role in the housing market. However, the old acronym DINK, dual income no kids, more often no longer applies.” Households with LGBTQ persons have become increasingly commonplace. The Family Equality Council estimates that between 2 million and 3.7 million children under age 18 have an LGBTQ parent and approximately 191,000 children are being raised by two same-sex parents. It is estimated that 29% of LGBTQ adults are now raising a child who is under the age of 18. And not unlike parents in other demographic groups, LGBTQ parents want their children to be brought up in neighborhoods with the best school systems.
But challenges remain for the LGBTQ households. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 does not encompass the LGBTQ community in the protected classes against housing administration, and 18 states and five U.S. territories have no laws that either explicitly prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or have a legal precedent that shields this demographic by means sex-related discrimination. Passage of the proposed Equality Act, which would extend the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender equality, passed the U.S. House of Representatives but stalled in the U.S. Senate and appears doomed to expire when the congressional term is over.
Thankfully soon after NAGLREP was founded in 2007, with a moral compass NAGLREP LGBTQ Real Estate Professionals brought forward to the National Association of REALTORS the proposal to amend the NAR Code of Ethics’ Article 10 to include sexual orientation and gender identity. At a time when roughly half of the country would not have such a concept in their state laws, it was a brave step for NAR to include a protected class before federal fair housing law. By 2011 and 2013, Article 10 was updated to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. NAGLREP membership of Gay Realtors and Allied real estate professionals recently celebrated our 15 year anniversary this past September with our LGBT+ Real Estate Retreat hosted in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, further accomplishing our goals of education and networking opportunities for LGBT and allied real estate professionals.
Progress never occurs overnight and the LGBTQ community enjoys more rights today than it experienced 10 or 20 years ago. And as the year comes to a close, many in the LGBTQ community can join with their fellow Americans in experiencing the joy associated with being home for the holidays.