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IREM celebrates Pride

A time to reflect on inclusivity and create a welcoming environment

By <i>Journal of Property Management</i>

Throughout the U.S. and in other countries, June is recognized as Pride Month, a time when those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, and others in the LGBTQ+ community—and their allies—celebrate and affirm their acceptance, visibility, and legal protections. 

IREM celebrates and recognizes the impact LGBTQ+ individuals, advocates, and allies have had on history in the U.S. and around the globe. At the same time, we’re mindful of the struggles for affirmation and equal rights and the issues members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to face in every area of life and business, including real estate management. 

A history of Pride celebrations

On June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. During this raid, many of the patrons and employees were physically assaulted by the police, who forcibly removed them from the bar. Most of the customers self-identified as gay men of color or as drag queens. The raid at the Stonewall Inn led to six days of protest and intense confrontation between patrons of the club with their supporters and the police.

It was the Stonewall uprisings that formed the impetus for a gathering and parade on June 28, 1970. Marchers walked from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park in what is considered America’s first gay Pride parade. Today, events like the one in 1970 take place worldwide.

Housing and the LGBTQ+ community

Though LGBTQ+ advocacy has come a long way, the community’s fight for equal rights continues. Thankfully, the challenges faced by those in the LGBTQ+ community around equal access to housing are gaining greater awareness.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2013, same-sex couples face significant discrimination when responding to advertised rental housing. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reports that about 25% of transgender people experienced housing discrimination within the previous year.

Alejandro Garcia, CPM, First Priority Management, LLC, AMO

Alejandro Garcia, CPM, vice president of operations for First Priority Management, LLC, AMO, is an open member of the LGBTQ+ community. He noted that many LGBTQ+ people may feel embarrassed to mention their partners when applying for housing. Partners are often referred to as roommates to minimize scrutiny and sidestep potential discrimination during the application process.

Brett Voeltz, CPM, property manager with Berkeley Partners and fellow LGBTQ+ community member, adds, “I knew of a gay couple that was refused a house during an attempted purchase based on their identity.”

Housing difficulties are not just limited to adult members of the community. According to a recent study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ+ youth. The same study suggests that 7% of the youth population in the U.S. identifies as LGBTQ+, but 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ+. Family conflict over gender identity and sexual orientation is the top-cited reason for LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.

In response to decades of discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community, HUD issued an historic memorandum on Feb. 11, 2021. The order declared that discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender is now considered a form of “sex” discrimination and prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act.

IREM members share their stories

Garcia shares that he attended seminary school when he was young but often felt conflicted about the career choice, leading him to ultimately leave the school. “I was always aware that some people would argue that the career path did not align with all the aspects of my LGBTQ+ identity,” he says.

Brett Voeltz, CPM, Berkeley Partners

It was also difficult for Voeltz to come out to friends and family, especially in high school. “I was anxious about societal pressures and negative judgments regarding my identity,” Voeltz says. He didn’t feel comfortable coming out until he was in college.

And as a man who hails from a family that prided “machismo” characteristics, Garcia’s news, in fact, wasn’t initially received well by some family members.

Fast forward just a bit, and both Garcia and Voeltz now report feeling very much at home when attending their IREM chapter events. And they also both feel called to make sure that all members of the LGBTQ+ community attending IREM events find an inclusive and welcoming environment that allows everyone to be their authentic selves.

Inclusion, which IREM defines as creating an environment where individuals in our profession feel valued, respected, supported, and welcome to bring their authentic selves to the organization, is one of IREM’s core values. So, we celebrate Pride Month with members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we will continue to set the important standard of fully embracing the similarities and differences of all individuals.

History of the Pride flag
The LGBTQ+ pride flag is ever present at Pride celebrations and parades. The flag, which has rainbow colors, was created by artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker in 1978. Today, the flag is a worldwide symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and human rights. Some cities and groups have made design modifications to promote inclusion. For instance, in 2017 the City of Philadelphia added the colors brown and black to foster diversity and the inclusion of brown and black members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Journal of Property Management

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