News / Vancouver

Lesbian couples 'trailblazers' of trendy neighbourhoods: UBC researcher

Anyone searching for the next housing hot spot may want to pay attention to neighbourhoods in which lesbian couples are living.

While many people think gay men help spark gentrification of neighbourhoods, University of B.C. sociologist Amin Ghaziani said research shows lesbian couples are the true "trailblazers," arriving first in areas poised for urban renewal.

“Lesbians actually predate the arrival of gay men,” Ghaziani told Metro. “They come first and they predict an increase in real estate values that come later.”

Ghaziani outlined the trend in a recent article published in Contexts, a quarterly social research magazine, in which he highlighted the differences between “gaybourhoods”— neighbourhoods that attract gay men— versus enclaves that lesbians call home.

While lesbians do sometimes share the same residential areas as gay men, Ghaziani said U.S. census data shows coupled women tend to live in less urban areas while men opt for larger, metropolitan areas.

Sociologists aren’t sure exactly why that is, but Ghaziani believes gender cues may play a role.

He said lesbians who portray masculine behaviour are not as stigmatized as effeminate gay men, which tends to make rural environments safer and more inviting for women.

Another factor, he said, is that lesbian couples are more likely than gay men to have and raise children, which gives them different housing needs than men.

In historically gay neighbourhoods like Vancouver’s West End, for example, housing mostly consists of single occupancy units at relatively high rents.

For a lesbian couple with children, “that’s not going to work,” Ghaziani said.

Combined with a gender wage gap with women still earning less than men, he said that steers lesbian couples to different areas of the city where they may find affordable housing that is more inclusive for families.

But don’t put in an offer on a home just yet.

While neighbourhoods like Commercial Drive are known for being popular among lesbians, Ghaziani said housing prices won't necessarily soar in that neighbourhood because of its residential makeup.

“The trend to concentrate is waning,” he said. “This is not to say that gay people don’t still want to live near other gay people, but they are less likely to do so in larger numbers the way we have seen in generations past.”

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