By Elena Cox
It’s officially Pride Month, and after more than a year in lockdown, it’s time to celebrate! Although some festivities may still be virtual, or a bit more muted than in past years, there are still plenty of reasons — and opportunities — to dust off that rainbow flag and get ready to kiki across the country.
And while you’re at it, maybe you can even find a new place to live. But where?
While big cities like San Francisco and New York have been long-renowned for their thriving gay scenes, they’re also notoriously expensive places to buy a home. And with home prices rising just about everywhere , it’s more important than ever to find places that are not only gay-friendly but also budget-friendly. That’s why the Realtor.com® data team sought out the nation’s most affordable gay meccas.
What we found were mostly smaller cities with thriving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer cultures, and college towns that have strong anti-discriminatory laws. All of them have good housing stock, plenty of things to do, and prices that are still (relatively) within reach.
Safety and an accepting community are two of the most important considerations of gay home buyers, according to a report last month by Freddie Mac and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, an organization of real estate professionals.
“LGBTQ folks want an equitable experience,” says Ryan Weyandt, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. “You don’t [want] to walk out your door and go into a world that’s abrasive and wants to judge you.”
Members of the LGBTQ community are still less likely to own a home. Only about half are homeowners compared with about 65% of the general population, according to the report. That number is even lower for LGBTQ people of color, who are more likely to experience housing discrimination.
One reason is a sexual orientation wage gap. Gay men are more likely to get paid less than heterosexual men, according to research from UCLA’s Williams Institute. And while lesbians tend to earn more than heterosexual women, most still earn less than either gay or heterosexual men.
Another challenge: gentrification that’s been going on for years in larger cities pricing people out. Because of this, some LGBTQ people are looking for other places to call home, says Amin Ghaziani, a professor of sociology and Canada Research Chair in Urban Sexualities at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
To come up with this list, the Realtor.com data team found states that had at least 2.5 married or co-habitating same-sex couples per 1,000 residents using U.S. Census Bureau data. Then we looked at cities in these states that received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, where the LGBTQ advocacy group assesses equality in cities’ policies, laws, and services.
To make sure these cities are really LGBTQ meccas, each place had to have its own Pride celebration festival. Finally, we sorted the list by the median list price of a home in May and limited our list to just one destination per state to ensure geographic diversity.
So where are the hottest “gayborhoods”? Let’s take a look:
1. Pittsburgh, PA
Median list price in May: $299,050
The gay community in Pittsburgh offers an intertwined hometown feel, which is why it was chosen as the setting for “Queer as Folk,” the groundbreaking Showtime series of the early aughts.
“‘Queer as Folk’ kind of put Pittsburgh on the gay map,” says Brian Larson, a sales specialist with Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Pittsburgh. “Since then, our pride festivals have grown year over year into something that has really kind of been a destination.”
Recently, Larson has worked with transplants from Los Angeles and other people who can work from anywhere.
They “are finding places like Pittsburgh where they can actually have quite a lavish lifestyle as far as homes go compared to other markets like San Francisco,” Larson says.
Queer icons like Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, and Willa Cather have all called Pittsburgh home at one point, and the arts scene is still thriving today, with the Warhol Museum and the contemporary art museum the Mattress Factory. There’s also an active theater scene, with the annual Pride Theater Festival held in summer and the Pittsburgh International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in the fall.
Most of the LGBTQ nightlife is located in the Shadyside neighborhood, a historic and walkable area that also has galleries and restaurants. A two-story condo there is currently on the market for $329,900. Penn Hills is more family-friendly with a good school system and plenty of historic homes. This three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home there is listed for $239,900.
2. Providence, RI
Median list price in May: $299,950
The state capital of Rhode Island is home to fewer than 200,000 people, but it still has a thriving gay scene. The artsy, college town is home to Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Bars serving the LGBTQ community are located downtown, though there are more to choose from throughout the city.
Providence’s PrideFest, which attracts more than 100,000 people every June, has been postponed to later this year because of the COVID-19pandemic. But those interested in putting down roots can snag a three-bed, 1.5-bath Colonial in the desirable Broadway-Armory Historic District, west of downtown, for under $400,000.
3. Virginia Beach, VA
Median list price in May: $337,050
Virginia Beach, a coastal city where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, is one of Virginia’s prime resort towns, with much of its economy based on the tourism industry. It has no shortage of historic sites, three military bases, and tons of restaurants and bars. It also has a growing LGBTQ community.
The annual Hampton Roads PrideFest, which includes a boat parade, has been moved to September this year, but there are still plenty of things to do during Pride Month. Festivities started Saturday at MJ’s Tavern, a gay watering hole in nearby Norfolk. At the end of the month, a Pride Kiki is planned at Ocean Breeze Waterpark.
While there’s no designated gayborhood in Virginia Beach, the ViBe Creative District is an artsy cultural hub. Because of its proximity to the ocean, real estate here can get a bit pricey. This three-bedroom, 3.5-bath condo is currently on the market for $430,000.
4. Fort Lauderdale, FL
Median list price in May: $349,950
Famously considered the gay capital of Florida, Fort Lauderdale has one of the highest concentrations of same-sex couples in the country, along with its lower-profile neighbor Wilton Manors, our No. 1 most LGBTQ-friendly city last year. Combined, the two cities have more than 200 gay-owned hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops, according to the state’s tourism bureau, and more than 1 million LGBTQ travelers visit every year.
In 2019, Fort Lauderdale passed a law that protects the city’s LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. In 2012, the Broward County school district became the first in the nation to recognize LGBT History Month.
Northbeach is the city’s most gay-friendly neighborhood, and a fully furnished unit in a resort condo building a block away from the beach is listed at $520,000.
5. Madison, WI
Median list price in May: $350,050
A college town at heart, Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a state school with more than 30,000 students. The highly educated and progressive city is one of the gay-friendliest in the Midwest.
Besides its arts community—which includes StageQ, a queer theater group that highlights LGBTQ stories—there’s plenty of outdoor activities to choose from. There are 200 miles of biking and hiking trails to explore, and Lake Mendota offers kayaking and fishing.
Popular neighborhoods for LGBTQ people are Middleton, a few miles west of downtown Madison. It offers a mix of urban amenities with a suburban feel. A four-bedroom, two-bath midcentury home here costs about $400,000.
6. Bloomington, IN
Median list price in May: $359,050
Bloomington, home to Indiana University, offers another LGBTQ-friendly oasis in the Midwest.
The city has received a perfect 100-point score on the Human Rights Commission’s Municipal Equality Index for the past six years. And in 2010, the Advocate magazine ranked Bloomington as the fourth-gayest city in the country.
This college town has not one, but two annual LGBTQ festivals: PRIDE Summerfest and PRIDE Film Festival. It also has a rich theater and music community, an LGBTQ community center, and the groundbreaking Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
Unlike some larger cities, there isn’t one primarily gay neighborhood—but that means there’s more room to spread out. Those looking to put down roots can scoop up a two-bed, two-bath condo in the artsy downtown neighborhood near campus for under $675,000. For a more affordable option, a single-family home near downtown is currently listed at $349,900.
7. Atlanta, GA
Median list price in May: $450,050
Atlanta is the epicenter of the gay South, and members of the LGBTQ community have flocked there from more conservative towns and states for decades.
The city’s rep as the “Hollywood of the South” has helped bring in a more glamorous and artsy vibe as of late, and there’s plenty of gay-friendly businesses to choose from. In fact, Atlanta has such a large, active LGBTQ community that it hosts two major pride events, Atlanta Pride and Atlanta Black Pride.
The heart of the gay community, where all the best bars are located, is in midtown, around the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and 10th Street. A modern industrial condo there is currently listed below $350,000, while a single-family home steps from Piedmont Park (where the annual pride festival is held) is on the market for $799,900.
8. Salem, MA
Median list price in May: $499,050
Things in this historic town have become considerably more tolerant since the days of the Salem witch trials. Salem has a small gay scene and only one gay bar, but it has a popular Rainbow Pride parade (moved to September this year) as well as other events throughout the year, including the Salem Art Fair and Festival in July, the Salem Film Festival, and the Salem Lit Fest.
Bonus: For those looking for more exciting nightlife, Boston is just 15 miles northeast. A turnkey Colonial built in 1930 and located right near Salem State University runs about $480,000.
9. Austin, TX
Median list price in May: $635,050
Another LGBTQ-friendly enclave in the South, Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America, far transcending its funky college town roots. It’s a place that seems to have something for everyone.
Austin is home to an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, an international drag festival, and several pride parades, including Queerbomb, an anti-corporate alternative to the main event.
There’s no central gay neighborhood here, but many of the gay bars are clustered downtown, in the Warehouse District. Homes there are not cheap, though, with a newly built, two-bed, 2.5-bath condo listed at $1.9 million. But the beauty about Austin is people don’t need to live in just one neighborhood to enjoy the queer culture. A single-family home overlooking Lake Travis is listed closer to the city’s median list price, at $639,000.
10. Long Beach, CA
Median list price in May: $729,050
Long Beach isn’t what most people would quite call affordable. However, it offers less pricey options than nearby Los Angeles, along with a more chill vibe.
Long Beach Pride has been held every June since the 1980s and includes a weeklong celebration of the diverse LGBTQ community here. Besides the beaches, there are plenty of things to do here.
“It’s kind of like if San Diego and L.A. had a baby, that would be Long Beach,” says Charlotte Kornik, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Coastal Alliance. “It’s very kumbaya in terms of live and let live.”
The center of Long Beach’s gay scene is located along Broadway, between downtown and Belmont Shore. It’s close to the beach, so real estate is pricey here. Buy buyers can snag a three-bedroom historic home in nearby Belmont Heights that is on the market for under $1 million.