LGBTQ Housing Discrimination Still Exists
June 1, 2021
It’s Pride month, and that means it’s time for both rainbow everything and a quick conversation about LGBTQ housing discrimination.
For this article, we’ll be addressing some of the modern-day concerns for LGBTQ clients. We’ll talk about protections against discrimination, along with some of the gap areas. Spoiler alert: we’re not there yet. We think it’s important to also address what work we’re putting in to make sure our LGBTQ clients’ needs are met. Additionally, we’ll cover what we expect from our trusted partners in business, what other real estate professionals can and should do, and finally, consumers’ options for finding great professionals when buying a home. Let’s dive in!
LGBTQ Housing Discrimination: Protections
Some of you may already be familiar with the concept of fair housing. On a federal level, there have been several bits of legislation enacted over the past half a century that address discrimination. But the downside? Federal legislation has so far failed the LGBTQ community.
At the moment, federal protections apply to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Because of the limited language, members of the LGBTQ community have to file a claim of discrimination based on one of the other categories. HUD’s website provides a couple examples:
- A transgender woman is asked by the owner of her apartment building not to dress in women’s clothing in the common areas of the property. This may violate the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against sex discrimination, which includes discrimination based on non-conformity with gender stereotypes.
- A gay man is evicted because his landlord believes he will infect other tenants with HIV/AIDS. This may violate the Fair Housing Act’s prohibition against disability discrimination, which includes discrimination against people who have or are perceived to have HIV/AIDS.
Inspiring stuff, right?
The good news, maybe, is that many states (22 and DC to be exact) have legislation that specifically names sexual orientation as a protected class. 21 of those ban discrimination against gender identity or expression. Additionally, some cities provide for protections via local ordinance.
But that leaves a huge gap. 52% of LGBTQ adults live in states without protections.
We’re simply not there yet.
When helping a past client, I was asked whether we should submit an offer in only one buyer’s name. They were concerned that if the sellers saw two men on the offer, if they would infer that they were a gay couple and choose another offer instead.
Part of this was almost definitely driven by the general state of the market at the time (read: competitive). Buyers don’t want to take any risks that may rule them out of the market.
But the reality is that, even in a relatively progressive city like Albuquerque, the risk is there. A 2013 study by HUD found evidence of rental discrimination against same-sex couples in every metropolitan area researched.
Ultimately, we submitted the offer accordingly.
I won’t say it felt good to do so. But it did feel safer.
How we meet the needs of LGBTQ clients
Although we are a gay-owned small business, we also recognize we have work to do. Internalized homophobia is real, y’all. Additionally, we think it’s important to do the work to ensure we have addressed all our biases. This also means addressing the needs of transgender clients (and the rest of the rainbow!).
Of course, each client has his/her/their individual needs anyways, right? Real estate is a personal industry. People have different financial situations, timelines, knowledge, and preferences anyways.
But some clients have other needs and experiences that reflect in how they interact with the world. That’s why we take an empathetic approach. We prefer listening to our clients and asking lots of questions. Where some people seek being perceived as an authority, we prefer seeking clarity.
We prefer to understand first.
What we expect from our partners
Obviously, we expect each of our vendors, partners, and others we do business with not show outright homophobia or transphobia. But further than that, we expect each to have made a commitment to conduct business in a respectful way.
That doesn’t just mean respecting others in their words, but also in their actions. We don’t only ask for our clients to receive equal treatment, but equitable treatment. In other words, we try to meet all of our clients’ needs, so we expect our partners to do the same. We expect our partners to meet our clients where they’re at, deliver information in the way the client needs to hear it, and otherwise advocate for an empower our clients.
What LGBTQ empowerment looks like in real estate
The most important distinguishing factor between someone who makes a good advocate and ally is understanding that we are all different. We believe real estate professionals need to not only commit ourselves to correcting our own actions and words, but also recognizing things like homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or racism in situations around their clients.
A lot of this looks like it would with any other client, but there are a few ways brokers can go above and beyond.
One major consideration that applies to all groups of people? We tend to surround ourselves with people like us. This isn’t necessarily helpful (and it’s actually one way that brokers inadvertently contribute to continued discrimination in the industry). If you’re not a member of the LGBTQ community, consider your social circle. Do you have a wide variety of perspectives? Are you aware of the issues your friends face?
How educated are you about the possible LGBTQ housing discrimination your clients may face?
In this process, it’s also important to own your biases. Where are you judging people without realizing it? What decisions are you making differently when it comes to different people? Is it helping them, or hurting them?
Of course, we should also participate in larger social conversations, but it’s important to remember to listen.
Most importantly, it’s important to be ready to call out discrimination when you see it and advocate for your clients. Do you know who to report discrimination to, or how to do so?
How LGBTQ clients can find great real estate professionals
Let’s talk about resources for LGBTQ clients when looking for their next real estate agent or lender. While direct referrals are usually the ideal way to vet any professional, we know it’s not always possible, particularly if you’re moving to a new market (or just a homebody!).
First is NAGLREP, or the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals. This is a directory for LGBTQ and allied real estate professionals (and look! We’re members!). Members are able to provide specific information about themselves and their qualifications.
Additionally, many local LGBTQ organizations can provide referrals in your market. Consider reaching out to your local Pride organization, resource centers, or even bars (which we all know continue to act as many of our safe spaces).
So what happens if you do face discrimination?
There are a handful of places to report your experiences that can investigate.
Of course, HUD is likely to be a first stop. This is often the best place to report discrimination from landlords or housing programs.
If your issue is with a real estate agent, each state has its own licensing authority that investigates consumer complaints against brokers (across the board). You may first report discrimination directly to your agent’s brokerage, as well, unless they are the principal or managing broker. Additionally, if your agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors (i.e. if they use the title of Realtor), you may file an ethics complaint at a national, state, or local level with the board.
If the discrimination is coming from a lender, there are a few options. First and foremost is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has oversight over the entire lending industry. Additionally, the FTC can conduct investigations for LGBTQ housing discrimination. Finally, each state has its own licensing body for loan originators.
Whatever option you may choose, remember that there are many, many other professionals who are ready to help you with your journey in a kind, compassionate, and professional way.