For better or worse, iconic "gayborhoods" are getting way more expensive, pricing out LGBT people in the process.
Neighborhoods such as San Francisco's Castro district or New York's Greenwich Village have cultural and historical significance for the LGBT community and house a large LGBT population.
A home in the Castro district values at nearly $1.8 million, according to the housing app Zillow, while comparable homes in other neighborhoods in the city average $1.3 million. That's a half-million-dollar difference.
"The gayer the block, the faster it rises in value," Amin Ghaziani told USA TODAY. Ghaziani is a professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia and author of There Goes The Gayborhood?
'Constantly feeling on edge': Anti-LGBT hate crimes are rising, the FBI says. But it gets worse
Ghaziani researched the increased gentrification and the rising cost of gayborhoods, and his findings show that areas with larger populations of same-gender households correlate to real-estate values that are higher than the average.
Research by Zillow released in May echoes these findings: Most gay neighborhoods have higher home values than their surroundings, sometimes to the tune of double or triple the home value.
Evidence also suggests the neighborhoods' gay identities are eroding.
Cleve Jones, a longtime LGBT activist in San Francisco, has said in recent years that the Castro has largely sloughed off its gay identity in favor of a largely heterosexual, "techie" population.
“In time, there will be gay flags, but no gay people," he told the Financial Times.
How did this happen?
Historically, LGBT people who have been unable to reside in well-off neighborhoods — whether due to high costs or discriminatory practices — have flocked to urban neighborhoods even as many heterosexual families began relocating to the suburbs.
LGBT people formed their own enclaves in these areas, building thriving businesses and booming communities. And soon after, families began moving back to cities.
Pride month: Companies launch rainbow-themed products and donate to LGBTQ nonprofits
"The amenities and jobs near and in those urban centers made cohesive, tolerant gayborhoods especially attractive places to live, driving up housing costs in these communities," Sarah Mikhitarian, a senior economist at Zillow, told USA TODAY.
The overall cost of living in big cities has risen drastically. But Ghaziani told USA TODAY that developers and investors looked to where LGBT people are located in metropolitan cities "as a strategy to increase their return on investment."
As masses of straight people wanted to move back to big cities, he says that moneyed individuals looking to cash in on the urban boom "followed" the gays.
"This is an exploitive strategy, one that reduces the humanity of LGBTQ+ people to their economic potential," he said to USA TODAY. "The spirit of equality and social justice is absent in this type of thinking."
His findings have shown that the population of LGBT people in gayborhoods has fallen.
Research by Florida State University professor Petra Doan shows that once the LGBT population has been ousted due to gentrification, former "gayborhoods" become less welcoming to LGBT people.
Contrary to the notion that gayborhood residents are affluent, said Ghaziani, LGBT people are more likely to be in poverty.
"While these neighborhoods still provide a sense of community and social acceptance, residents often pay a hefty premium to live there," Mikhitarian said.
It's not just straight people
A slew of housing conflicts is taking place, not only just from straight transplants to gayborhoods — but also between specific sects of the LGBT community.
The rising costs of gayborhoods disproportionately affect people of color, women and trans women, Mikhitarian said.
"For people at the intersection of any of these identities, it’s even worse because the pay gap is even larger," she said.
50 years after the raid: Stonewall veterans return to New York City to celebrate Pride
Additionally, trans people are often harassed and attacked out of existing gayborhoods by its gay, lesbian and bisexual population. Less than half of trans people Doan surveyed felt that the gayborhoods they lived in are safe, she found.
And though the LGBT population faces poverty as a whole, wealth is further stratified within the LGBT community.
A study published in 2018 by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to be living in poverty than their straight peers. Lesbian and bisexual women, however, are worse off compared with gay and bisexual men. Making matters worse, transgender people face higher rates of poverty than the rest of the LGBT population.
What can be done?
LGBT people must be able to afford living in a gayborhood if its culture is to be preserved, and experts and community members say local governments can do more to help.
Ghaziani said that city officials can do more for LGBT people in gayborhoods than just adorn it with rainbows.
"While symbolic strategies like rainbow crosswalks help to (mark) a neighborhood as queer, we need queer residents and business owners to convert a symbolic space into one that has real, material significance in the lives of LGBTQ+ people," he told USA TODAY.
These strategies include rent control for existing neighborhoods and financial incentives for LGBT-owned businesses funded by local governments.
As policies shift toward ensuring that all areas of a city are safe for the LGBT community, the Human Rights Campaign conducts a Municipal Equality Index annually, which looks at how inclusive city laws, policies, and services treat a city's LGBT population.
Opinion: Why we owe Pride to black transgender women who threw bricks at cops
And even if it can't be found in so-called gayborhoods, LGBT people still need access to safe, affordable housing.
Organizations such as the SF LGBT Center and Detroit's Ruth Ellis Center offer housing services for LGBT people, aiding in searches for affordable housing for poor LGBT folks and resources for first-time LGBT homeowners.
“It’s important that we work on all fronts to ensure economic and cultural viability for the LGBTQ+ community," said Rebecca Rolfe, SF LGBT Center's executive director, This includes advocating for strong affordable housing policies ... and direct service programs that break down economic barriers by providing training, economic assistance, or temporary housing options to those most in need.”