As we near the end of June, and the corporate logos with rainbow overlays start to come down, we wanted to highlight an aspect of the LGBTQ+ experience that doesn’t often make the headlines – homeownership.
In addition to being Pride Month, June is also National Homeownership Month. For those that have tried, homebuying has been a rocky road for the last couple of years; whether you’ve been an aspiring buyer outbid by out-of-state investors swooping in with cash offers well-above the asking price, or more recently, a lender or realtor struggling with rising interest rates and reluctant buyers.
The homebuying process is not easy…full stop. At CIC, we have several programs, including our Down Payment Assistance and Mortgage Credit Certificate programs that aim to make home buying more affordable across Arizona, but there are additional barriers that members of LGBTQ+ community face.
According to this Forbes article, about 29% (of 1,538 members of LGBTQ+ community surveyed by Realtor.com) “reported they had experienced discrimination during the homebuying process or suspected they were victims of it.”
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+.
The article goes on to explain that to avoid discrimination, many LGBTQ+ homebuyers often gravitate towards more urban areas where they feel safer. However real estate is increasingly unaffordable in city centers, prompting an exodus to the suburbs where they are forced to live in areas where they may feel less protected, under-represented or even un-welcome in order to access affordable housing.
Discrimination can also be much more subtle. In speaking with Mario Zuniga (pictured above), who administers the Mortgage Credit Certificate program at CIC and has gone through the home buying process many times with his husband, he pointed out that many loan applications in Arizona still end by requiring signatures from a “husband and wife”, or ask for gender identification, but only list “male or female.”
Mario shared a few suggestions to reduce heteronormativity in the home buying process. First, “take the time to get to know your buyers and let them tell you their story. Don’t make assumptions about the nature of the relationship based on gender, perhaps the buyers are friends or siblings.”
Additionally, think about making the language in your applications gender-neutral, with words like applicant, borrower, buyer, etc. If gender or familial relationship is not relevant to the resource you are providing, is it necessary to ask?
In conclusion, remember that while the dream of homeownership is baked into the DNA of being American, it can also be a scary and vulnerable process for people who don’t fit into the historically narrow definition of being the model American family. We challenge you to ask yourself “How can I ease the experience and leave assumptions out of the equation?”