Ohio Study Shows Varying Role of Gay Couples in Property Values

A study of one Ohio city shows that same-sex couples may lift property values in neighborhoods that support gay marriage and hurt prices in ones that don’t.

While earlier research suggested that gays and lesbians can be a boon for property values by helping to gentrify neighborhoods, a finer distinction was explored by professors David Christafore of Konkuk University in Seoul and Susane Leguizamon of Tulane University in New Orleans.

The economics professors, who studied home values in 2000 in and around Columbus, Ohio, concluded that an increase in the number of same-sex couples by one in 1,000 households is associated with a 1.1 percent price premium in enclaves that backed gay marriage. The same influx in areas that didn’t support same-sex marriage was linked to a 1 percent discount.

“The perception that there is prejudice against gay and lesbians by conservative groups is strong enough to be picked up in market prices,” Leguizamon said in a telephone interview.

The study, to be published in the Journal of Urban Economics, distinguished between the two types of neighborhoods by how they voted on Ohio’s 2004 Defense of Marriage Act, which became law and defines marriage as between a man and woman. The professors compared average home prices in neighborhoods after controlling for a number factors, including distance to the central business district, income, graduate degrees, school quality, crime rate and house size.

Impact of Views

Gay couples may lift real estate prices by enhancing cultural amenities, housing stock and the vibrancy of neighborhoods, according to a 2010 study by Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto, and Charlotta Mellander of Jonkoping International Business School in Jonkoping, Sweden.

Christafore and Leguizamon “show there’s another side to that coin,” said Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles, which studies sexual-orientation law and policy.

Gates said it would be interesting to see whether changing attitudes toward gay people would have shown different results if more recent home values were studied. Leguizamon said 2000 prices were used in part to avoid the complications of the housing bust, which started in 2006.

The 2010 census shows increasing populations of same-sex households in urban areas within conservative states such as Salt Lake City and St. Louis, said Gates. The census found 646,464 same-sex couples, and the states with the highest concentrations were Vermont, Massachusetts, California, Oregon, and Delaware, according to Gates’s analysis of the latest census data.

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