I continue to be amazed at the reception the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) receives from our industry. We have been invited to attend just about every brand and major event in 2018, and it has been exciting to see more and more recognize the role we play.
I founded NAGLREP 11 years ago to give LGBT real estate professionals and allies a place to connect, reach potential clients, learn together and help eliminate discrimination in real estate and beyond.
Along the way, NAGLREP has become one of the largest LGBT trade groups in the nation, with a growing membership that is now 2,000. We also have 24 local chapters which hold regular learning and networking events, most in partnership with their local REALTOR® organizations.
Our annual conference—to be held October 2-4 in Palm Springs—has tripled in size, and our website attracts roughly 75,000 unique visits per month from LGBT homebuyers, sellers and agents looking to connect with our members to help in their housing needs.
But the thing I am most proud of has been the rise in importance of our LGBT Housing Policy Summit. We held the annual event in mid-April at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Equality Center in D.C. The real estate industry came out in force to meet with leaders of the LGBT community. It was incredible to see the intersection of the likes of Realogy’s Alex Perriello, Anthony Hitt, who leads Engel & Vӧlkers North America, Teresa Smith from HSF Affiliates, NAR First Vice President Vince Malta, along with Anthony Hutchinson from Freddie Mac. Partners from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, SunTrust Mortgage, Bank of America, First American Title, and so many others also engaged with executives from HRC, AARP, SAGE and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Together we gained insight, and it became clear how discrimination of any kind negatively impacts an LGBT’s desire and ability to own a home. The discussions moved far beyond our desire to eliminate housing discrimination and focused on the overarching Equality Act, a bill introduced last year that essentially would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
It was enlightening to fully understand how other forms of discrimination in education, the workplace and other facets of our lives can hinder access to a career, career advancement and the increased salary and access to credit that comes with that.
Clearly, these barriers stunt LGBTs path towards homeownership.
I had the chance to meet with David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who introduced the Equality Act last year, and he was thrilled with NAGLREP’s efforts and our asking for NAR’s support as we work towards more than just eradicating housing discrimination. NAR answered our call in a letter from President Elizabeth Mendenhall that they will continue to support any effort to eliminate housing discrimination and will encourage its members, on their visits to the Hill during the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings, to ask their state representatives to support the more narrowly-defined Fair and Equal Housing Act. We were appreciative of the response, yet we want to keep the dialogue going.
We believe that because the real estate community represents “home”—obviously a critical portion of our lives—our industry voice will remain important as we work to end discrimination.
LGBTs make up approximately 5 percent of the population, yet our impact on the American economy is oversized, with nearly $1 trillion in buying power, according to Witeck Communications. While a lot of focus is on the affluence of the LGBT community, there is a huge population that is not the stereotypical two-income couple. These others are likely working their way up the earning food chain, renting and maybe even unaware that they can afford a home. We want to reach them and help remove any artificial barrier they might face.
Ending discrimination is the right thing to do, but taking a stand will also benefit the real estate industry on the business side, too.
I hope you will join NAGLREP on our continued quest to end discrimination against LGBTs in housing and beyond.
Jeff Berger is founder of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP). For more information, please visit www.naglrep.com.
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