Advocate, elevate, celebrate: Promoting LGBTQ homeownership
Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, is on a mission to educate the agent community and increase homeownership among LGBTQ people.
- The passage of the Respect for Marriage Act helped codify some protections for same-sex couples, but Weyandt believes more should be done.
- Federal Fair Housing laws do not include sexual orientation or gender as protected classes, opening up members of those groups to housing discrimination.
- The Alliance provides agent training and advocacy around LGBTQ issues.
The LGBTQ community breathed a huge sigh of relief last month when President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, codifying protections for same-sex and interracial couples.
But while Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, is happy that the measure passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, he isn't cheering too loudly.
"I am disappointed that concessions were made," he said.
The law only protects existing marriages, Weyandt pointed out. "What this law does is give a sense of confidence that marriages will be protected as they sit," Weyandt said. "We put a Band-Aid on a problem that we have a cure for."
And yet, he still has much to celebrate, and look forward to. He calls the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance "the phoenix that rose out of the ashes" of the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP), which was rocked after 13 years by what he called "major mismanagement."
Weyandt had been a member of that organization for seven years, ran the NAGLREP's Minnesota chapter and then started its philanthropic foundation.
Seeking a fresh start, Weyandt and all the other chapter presidents met to form the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance in 2020.
Their mission: Advocate for fair housing for all and promote LGBTQ+ homeownership. Raise professionalism in the industry through education and networking. Celebrate diversity and inclusion in members and allied partners.
Weyandt isn't a real estate agent; he's a lending consultant. He grew up in student government, joined chambers of commerce and built employee resource groups. So he offered to create the new organization's structure, and two weeks later, was offered the CEO contract.
Weyandt was excited, but hesitant. "No one in their right mind would start a minority nonprofit in a pandemic," he said. "But it was the first time I had the opportunity to stay on and sail a ship that I had built."
He also knows how much support agents and their clients need.
The LGBTQ+ homeownership rate is 49% — far below the 64% homeownership rate for the general population. And although LGBTQ+ people are protected in some states and municipalities, federal Fair Housing Laws do not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes. This allows legal discrimination in 27 states, which can cause barriers to homeownership, obtaining a loan, renting and more.
"Sexual orientation and identity are not protected classes, and people don't realize that," Weyandt said. "In those states, it is legal to discriminate. Gay couples face higher interest rates. A seller can tear up a purchase agreement if they find out they are selling to a gay couple."
What gives him hope is that homeownership in the LGBTQ community has risen continuously since 2015. But that's only a start: The LGBTQ economy has a potential of $1.7 trillion, he said, "and obviously, that will bleed into homeownership. The money is there. It is more than a moral imperative. It's a business. The numbers don't lie."
With a new year starting, Weyandt and the Alliance have a clear set of goals, beginning with education through a certified ally program. The course is aimed at giving real estate agents the knowledge they need to articulate comfortably, and, in the process, break down barriers.
"I call it an LGBTQ 101 competency course," he said, adding that the course includes vocabulary and pronunciation. "A lot of the things straight folks have never had to think about," he said. "It gives them opportunities to ask difficult questions."
The course is offered once a quarter online, and Weyandt has traveled to teach it at state and corporate partners and real estate associations from Miami to California. He even trained an entire team at Keller Williams — including founder Gary Keller.
The Alliance is here for the long term, he said, working to support agents, put LGBTQ+ people into their own homes, and educate others in order to cool vitriol and create allies.
"The best thing I can do is to work myself out of a job," he said. "I don't see that happening in my lifetime, but we're going to work damn hard to make sure we get close."