Urban Wire Closing LGBTQ+ Homeownership Gaps Will Require Better Housing and Mortgage Market Data
Aniket Mehrotra, Katie Visalli, Todd Hill, Matthew Pruitt
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The LGBTQ+ population is young and rapidly growing, possessing more than $1.4 trillion in spending power. But LGBTQ+ households are also more likely to be locked out of homeownership and its wealth-building potential. Our prior research shows that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or nonbinary have a homeownership rate that is 20 percentage points lower than that of people who identify as straight and cisgender. Ensuring that LGBTQ+ households can equally participate in the mortgage market will require targeted policy action.

To start, more data are needed. Most federal surveys and data sources that are used to analyze the demographic and economic characteristics of renters, homebuyers, and homeowners do not include information on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

To best inform evidence-based policy solutions, data sources must capture the housing and mortgage market experiences of LGBTQ+ people while ensuring a high regard for privacy and inclusion. Here, we explore data gaps on LGBTQ+ households, what progress has been made to close those gaps, and what more can be done.

What we don’t know about LGBTQ+ housing experiences

In our previous work, we used the Census Bureau’s biweekly Household Pulse Survey to calculate the homeownership rates of LGBTQ+ people and analyze demographic characteristics, such as age, income, marital status, presence of children, and race or ethnicity. But key information limitations still exist.

Below, we detail current housing data sources and whether they collect SOGIE data or have plans to do so. In particular, more geographic and homebuying data on LGBTQ+ people are needed.

Key Knowledge Gaps in Data Collection on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression

 Known databases that already report SOGIE dataKnown databases with plans to collect and release SOGIE dataNo known plans to collect SOGIE data
Geography: Market-level variations in LGBTQ+ homeownership rates American Community Survey 
Homebuying: Denial rates, reasons for denial, and credit and financial profiles of LGBTQ+ mortgage applicants, including LGBTQ+ households of color  Home Mortgage Disclosure Act
Barriers to homeownership: Housing cost burdens among LGBTQ+ renters and homeownersHousehold Pulse SurveyAmerican Housing Survey 
Wealth: Likelihood of LGBTQ+ people to receive intergenerational wealth transfers, and effects on homeownershipSurvey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking National Survey of Mortgage Originations

Survey of Consumer Finances

Note: SOGIE = sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. 

Recent progress in SOGIE data collection efforts

In recent years, progress to advance SOGIE data collection in federal surveys has been an executive and congressional priority. Congress advanced the LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act, which passed the House in 2022. The Biden-Harris administration has also incorporated SOGIE questions into the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. And a 2022 executive order led to the publishing of a Federal Evidence Agenda on LGBTQI+ Equity (PDF) via a new interagency working group on SOGIE data and mandated that agencies create action plans to include SOGIE data in all federal surveys.

As a result, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has said it will include SOGIE questions on the 2023 American Housing Survey (PDF), which is scheduled to release in late 2024. The Census Bureau has announced it will launch pilot testing of SOGIE questions beginning in 2024, an effort supported by a $10 million appropriation in the federal budget. Additionally, in 2022, the Federal Reserve started collecting and reporting respondents’ self-identified SOGIE information in its Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, which includes data on households’ financial well-being.

What more needs to be done

Although these actions are promising, key federal data sources that could provide a better picture of homeownership for LGBTQ+ people still do not collect these data. Including SOGIE questions as part of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data collection and reporting, for instance, would provide the greatest benefit to LGBTQ+ homeownership research.

HMDA is the most comprehensive, publicly available source of data on the US mortgage market because the majority of mortgage lenders are required to report data on each mortgage application they receive to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Dodd-Frank Act grants considerable flexibility around HMDA reporting requirements, meaning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could include SOGIE questions through regulatory changes and without congressional action.

Access to SOGIE data through HMDA would enable academics and researchers to look at denial rates and loan terms for LGBTQ+ applicants, to better pinpoint the drivers of the homeownership gap. Policymakers and industry stakeholders could then use the data to inform targeted approaches to close the gap.

Any efforts to expand collection of SOGIE data must be accompanied with thorough considerations of privacy and safety implications. The LGBTQ+ Federal Evidence Agenda (PDF) and prior Urban research detail steps that should be taken—including making survey responses voluntary, self-attested, and not personally identifiable—to ensure data cannot be manipulated to harm LGBTQ+ people instead of help them. Government agencies are considering these implications and should continue to do so with feedback from the public and industry where appropriate.

With adequate data on LGBTQ+ people, policymakers and practitioners will be better equipped to make evidence-based policy recommendations that ensure LGBTQ+ people can actively and equally participate in the housing and mortgage markets to access the benefits of homeownership.


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Research Areas Housing finance
Tags Evidence-based policy capacity Fair housing and housing discrimination Family and household data Federal housing programs and policies Homeownership Housing finance data and tools LGBTQ+ equity LGBTQ+ people and housing and transportation equity
Policy Centers Housing Finance Policy Center
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