Affordability is a pressing issue for homebuyers, as home values come off two years of record-breaking appreciation and mortgage interest rates continue to climb. For LGBTQ+ homebuyers, finding affordable housing comes with the added challenge of finding it in a safe and welcoming city.
Homebuyers can expect to pay as much as 63%1 more to live in an area with explicit protections for the LGBTQ+ community, as compared to areas with none. These protections can include laws which explicitly outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, healthcare, and more.
The cost of such a premium has had a dramatic impact on the community. The rate of homeownership for the LGBTQ+ community is just 49.8% as compared to the U.S. average of 65.8%.2 And progress on closing the gap is slow: A profile of homebuyers and sellers in 2022 reveals that 91% of homebuyers identified as straight, with only 2% of identifying as gay or lesbian, 2% identifying as bi, and less than 1% identifying as trans.3
So where can homebuyers maximize their buying power with the peace of mind of equal protection under the law? Orchard analyzed more than 500 metro areas for LGBTQ+ protections, median household incomes, and yearly housing costs to identify the top under-the-radar cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers.
Here are the top 20 places where LGBTQ+ homebuyers have the most homebuying power relative to income and equal protection under the law. Cities are ranked by the percent of income devoted to housing costs, lowest to highest.
Dayton, Ohio takes our top spot with the lowest monthly median housing costs of just $943, and 13.1% of income of same-sex couples overall going towards housing. This is the lowest cost of living relative to income of the 20 cities on our list. The affordability of Dayton paired with strong non-discrimination laws and protections makes it a great place for LGBTQ+ homebuyers looking to leverage their buying power.
The snowy college town of Syracuse, New York is a great place to settle down for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. Syracuse boasts monthly housing costs of just $1,043, or just 13.9% of income for same-sex married couples overall. And in 2021, Mayor Ben Walsh announced an LGBTQ+ advisory board to serve as a liaison between the LGBTQ+ community and the city government to ensure that the needs of the community are met.
Akron ranks as another affordable option for LGBTQ+ homebuyers, with median monthly housing costs of just $998. The median household income for same-sex couples overall in Akron is $83,168, making the median share of income devoted to housing just 14.4% for the area. But that isn’t all, Akron is also home to ample services for the LGBTQ+ community, including the Summa Health Pride Clinic — which provides health care and services to the LGBTQ community — and Plexus LGBTQ and Allied Chamber of Commerce — the only LGBTQ professional organization that provides support and networking opportunities for the community.
Greensboro took the top spot for North Carolina on the HRC’s 2021 MEI thanks to its robust protections and services for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also an affordable place for homebuyers, with just 14.8% of income going towards housing costs for same-sex couples overall. Median income for same-sex couples in the area is $100,467 and monthly housing costs are $1,240.
As a state, Kentucky's equality profile for the LGBTQ+ community is low, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) — a nonprofit think tank that conducts research about and creates tools to visualize equality nationwide. However, Louisville has responded by passing local laws to enshrine protections for the community. These protections and the low cost of living make this one of the top under-the-radar cities to buy. The median income is $103,446 and monthly housing costs are $1,359 for same-sex couples overall.
While New York City is often credited with being the flashpoint for LGBTQ+ rights in New York, Buffalo has also paved the way for LGBTQ+ rights in the state and beyond. The 1980 case of New York vs. Onofre started in Buffalo and was used as precedent to repeal discriminatory laws nationwide. The long legacy of LGBTQ+ advocacy, bustling nightlife and community, and median monthly housing costs ($1,151) just 15.8% of income for same-sex married couples overall ($87,517), make Buffalo an ideal place to settle down — so long as you can handle the snow.
The LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland, is one of the nation’s oldest centers of its kind. The center offers programming, services, and education to the community, and is just one example of the thriving LGBTQ+ community in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland also has a low cost of living relative to income, with median monthly housing costs of just $987 and median married household income for same-sex couples overall just under $75,000.
If you’re looking for affordable city life, Philadelphia might be for you. The city of brotherly love boasts strong protections for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as low median monthly housing costs of just $1,396 and a healthy median household income for same-sex couples of just under $106,000 — the highest on our list. That means you can expect to spend 15.8% of your income on monthly housing costs. Check out the city’s LGBTQ guide, which highlights some of the best community spots.
As a state, Alabama has a number of damaging laws for the LGBTQ+ community, including Religious Exemption Laws which permit the refusal of services to members of the community based on religious beliefs. However, Birmingham has responded by passing local laws to protect city residents and fill the gap left by state laws. The city has a thriving LGBTQ+ community, legendary pride celebration, and affordable housing accounting for just 15.9% of income for same-sex couples overall.
Another Ohio location, Columbus also boasts a low cost of living, with same-sex couples devoting only 18% of their income to housing costs. Median household income for the area is $101,697 for same-sex couples overall, with monthly housing costs of $1,360. The city advertises a number of LGBTQ+-friendly neighborhoods, as well as a thriving nightlife.
Detroit — the birthplace of Motown and techno, and home to legendary venues like The Fillmore and Fox Theater — may be known for its historic contributions to music, but it’s also making a name for itself as a hub of LGBTQ+ culture. LGBT+ Detroit is the nation’s largest Black-founded and led organization of its kind, and their tireless work since 1994 has helped shape Detroit as one of the best cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers.
Detroit has the second lowest income for same-sex couples overall on our list, coming in at just $75,267. But monthly housing costs are also low — just $1,063, or 16.9% of income.
If the snowy spots in our top 11 aren’t appealing to you, consider buying in Tucson, Arizona. This sunny city in southern Arizona has affordable housing and a teeming nightlife. The University of Arizona campus in Tucson also contributes to an active downtown and thriving arts district.
Median income for same-sex married couples overall in Tucson is $87,716, with housing costs of $1,257, or 17.2% of income.
Median monthly housing costs in Milwaukee cost just $1,324 and account for just under 18% of the median household incomes for same-sex couples overall ($88,646). This college town also offers a hip nightlife scene and festivals throughout the year including PrideFest — Wisconsin’s biggest pride festival for over 30 years.
Known for its white sand beaches and turquoise water, St. Petersburg is also an affordable place for LGBTQ+ homebuyers looking to settle down. The city has earned a perfect score on the HRC MEI since 2014 and offers ample services, support, and opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. Median income for same-sex married couples overall in St. Petersburg is the second highest on our list at $105,029, with housing costs of $1,658, or 18.9% of income.
Las Vegas has more to offer than just the ideal destination for a fun weekend getaway, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ homebuyers here can enjoy a low cost of living and events like the Nevada Gay Rodeo and Cowboy bingo, as well as thriving gay bars, clubs and restaurants. Sin City also has a median income for same-sex married couples of $97,412, with monthly housing costs of $1,596, or just 19.7% of income.
The median sale price of homes in San Antonio is just under $300,000, well below the national median of $454,900, and median monthly housing costs are just $1,524 or 19.9% of median income for same-sex households overall. San Antonio’s thriving LGBTQ+ scene — including art, clubs, and a queer entertainment district just north of downtown — have put it in contention for the title of Texas’ gayest city.
Although Texas’ state laws and policies towards LGBTQ+ individuals ranks low on MAP’s equality profile, cities like Arlington (and #16 San Antonio, and #19 Dallas) are going a long way to provide protection and opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. Nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, Arlington has a low cost of living for same-sex couples overall, with just 20.3% of median income for same-sex couples overall ($101,029) going towards monthly housing costs ($1,705).
If you’re looking for an affordable place to live with easy access to the beach, West Palm Beach, Florida, might be for you. Northwood Village of West Palm Beach is one of South Florida Gay News’s best neighborhoods of 2019 and just one example of the affordable places to buy in this under-the-radar city. Just 22.4% of monthly median household income for same-sex couples overall ($100,960) goes towards monthly housing costs here ($1,883).
Dallas has the highest monthly living costs on our list, coming in at $1,902. But the median sale price of homes in Dallas is just $390,667, well below the national median. The percentage of income spent on housing costs for same-sex couples overall was 22.6%, well below the 30% threshold recommended by experts. Dallas is also home to one of the largest gay populations in the US, with 4% of residents identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, according to research by Williams Institute.
Orlando’s welcoming attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community dates back to at least 1991, when it was named the first ever “City of the Year'' by GayCities.com. While the city’s ample theme parks and nightlife help this city consistently rank as a top LGBTQ+ vacation destination, you might not know it’s also a great place to buy a home. Median monthly housing costs are just $1,817, or 23.9% of household income for same-sex couples overall.
Here are all of the data points for our under-the-radar rankings. Including more specific data on household income differences between same-sex male, same-sex female, and opposite-sex married couples, as well as monthly housing costs.
Homebuying power is a measure of the mortgage a person can qualify for, as well as the type of home that mortgage can buy. For example, if you qualified for a $300,000 mortgage in 2019, you would have been within striking distance of purchasing a home for $313,000 — the median priced home at the time. However, if you qualified for that same mortgage today, a $454,900 home — the cost of a median priced home in 2022 — would be out of reach.
The record appreciation of homes in the past three years has greatly impacted homebuying power of first-time buyers, pricing many out of the market. However, these under-the-radar cities still offer affordability.
Want to know how much house you can afford? Use our mortgage calculator.
Household income greatly influences the type of financing someone qualifies for, and thus the kind of house they can afford. It follows that discrepancies across same-sex household incomes plays a role in their homebuying power.
A 2019 study by the U.S. Census Bureau found that same-sex male married couples make significantly more than their opposite-sex and same-sex female counterparts — with the median household income being $123,600 for same-sex males, $95,720 for same-sex female married couples, and $96,930 for opposite-sex married couples. While same-sex female couples made the least, the discrepancy is not statistically significant compared to opposite-sex households.
While more recent or local income data was not available for our study, we accounted for these differences by calculating a household income premium based on the national averages for same-sex male couples, same-sex female couples, and same-sex couples overall. We then applied these premiums to local median household income for opposite-sex married couples for each of the cities we examined.
These cities offer LGBTQ+ homebuyers more buying power relative to income and inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services for the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s what we looked at:
If you’re thinking of buying a house, here are some steps to get you started.
To find our under-the-radar cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers, we pulled data from the Human Rights Campaign’s 2021 Municipality Equality Index (MEI). We then used U.S. Census data to find median housing costs and income for married couples in each of the cities, as well as the national median income for same-sex couples. Income data for same-sex couples is not available at the city-level, so we applied a same-sex couple premium to the median income data for married couples to determine differences between opposite sex couples, same-sex male, same-sex female, and same-sex couples overall. Then we calculated the monthly housing costs as percent of income for each of these splits in every city.
To narrow down our list, we only looked at cities which had a perfect score of 100 or more on the MEI. From there, we eliminated cities where housing costs were greater than 30% of the national median income for same-sex couples overall ($107,200)4. We then eliminated cities where housing costs were greater than 30% of household income for same-sex couples in the area. Lastly, to rank our list, we sorted cities' yearly housing costs as percent of income from least to greatest.
Winnie Ng contributed to data collection and analysis for this report.
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