Marina Adshade is the author of The Love Market: What You Need To Know About How We Date, Mate and Marry. She teaches at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics.
Last Friday, Vancouver School Board trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo called a press conference to share concerns allegedly brought to them by “senior people in the real estate industry” that a proposed board policy designed to address the bully of children based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity would adversely affect home prices in Vancouver.
According to Mr. Denike and Ms. Woo, realtors are concerned that prices in Canada’s hottest housing market would fall in response to a decrease in the demand for homes that is currently being fueled by immigrant families who come to Canada hoping to find a less inclusive school environment for LGBTQ+ children.
No realtors have stepped forward to add legitimacy to this claim, but regardless of how potential immigrants might respond to the possibility of their child sharing a bathroom with someone who is not exactly the same as them, all evidence suggests that being a welcoming community is good for both house prices and the economy.
For example, extensive work by University of Toronto-affiliated economist Richard Florida has shown that cities that are open to members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to have a well-developed high-tech sector, a higher standard of living and higher property values. He argues that welcoming communities benefit from an “open culture premium” that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in a way that significantly benefits the local economy.
Taking a different perspective, economist M.V. Lee Badgett, in a soon-to-be-released World Bank study, finds that homophobia and transphobia impose real economic costs on the community. She argues that discrimination and harassment lead to lower education levels, lower workplace productivity, poor health outcomes and lower labour-force participation of the affected individuals. She concludes that even in countries, like Canada, that have laws that work to reduce discrimination, the existing disparities create an economic burden.
The most relevant research to this story, however, takes a specific look how discrimination against same-sex households influences property values and finds that the one thing that will make housing prices fall is having homophobic neighbours.
David Christafore and Susane Leguizamon combined data that included complete information on the sale of over 20,000 homes, the number of same-sex households in each sub-division and the share of households in subdivision that voted in favour of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the U.S. federal legislation that encoded into law non-recognition of same-sex households in 1996.
These researchers find, consistent with other studies, that the number of same-sex households in a neighbourhood is positively correlated with higher property values, on average, but that positive effect disappears in neighbourhoods in which a large share of residents are opposed to same-sex marriage.
Adding one household that consists of a gay couple (per 1,000 households) increases property values in that neighbourhood by 1.1 per cent when that community supports equal marriage, but in the neighbourhoods that overwhelmingly opposed same-sex marriage the addition of that same-sex household decreases property values by 1 per cent in that neighbourhood.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how much adding one homophobic neighbour to a community that already has a sizable population of same-sex households will influence property values, but we speculate given this evidence that this will only put downward pressure on house prices.
The Vancouver School Board probably has other things to worry about at the moment, what with a teachers’ strike set to begin this week, but I would like to suggest that if propping up local housing prices is part of the school board’s mandate this currently policy doesn’t even go far enough.
How about a rainbow flag flying outside of every school in the city? If you are not willing to do it for the children, then by all means do it for the almighty buck.