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Originally established in 2007, the Florida-based 501(c)(3) National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals was started with the direct intention of not only bringing both allied and LGBTQ business professionals together, but to work on a legislative level to aid in the elimination of discriminatory housing practices in the U.S. Now, in addition to the dozens of chapters nationwide, the Metro Detroit area has its own; its inaugural event was held in Bloomfield Hills on Thursday, March 14. James Christbrook, president of the Greater Detroit chapter said he was excited for the local community to learn about NAGLREP’s larger mission.
“It’s the first real organization of gay and lesbian real estate professionals and allies. We include everybody because inclusion is important, and the other part of it is doing good business — networking across the country, having a referral network,” Christbrook said. “Especially if you have a gay or lesbian client that’s more comfortable with that realtor, we have a network across the country that can handle that.”
Beyond simply being a great resource for couples looking for a smoother experience when buying a home, Christbrook included that many realtors, even in the LGBTQ community, don’t realize that in many parts of the U.S. there still exist housing inequalities that omit LGBTQ people.
“In half the states in the country, it’s still allowable to discriminate based on sexual orientation when it comes to housing and many other things,” he said. “As a realtor, however, you cannot do that because it’s in our code of ethics that we do not discriminate based on sexual orientation. And, actually, the National Organization of Realtors is pushing to change that on the federal level. So, it’s a very concerted effort.”
And Michigan is still included among those states that do not punish LGBTQ housing discrimination. Christbrook said that though the national organization advocates on a large scale at Human Rights Campaign and at legislative conferences in Washington, D.C., the Greater Detroit group will be doing its own outreach and advocacy on a smaller level.
“We’re planning several events throughout the year and most of them are education-based, and that’s for everybody to be included; gay, straight, we don’t care,” he said. “The point of what we’re doing is that we feel that anybody who can afford to rent or buy a home should be able to do it anywhere they want regardless of sexual orientation, color, creed, anything. It’s good business and it’s the right things to do.”
Don Chisholm, a launch party attendee and member of the Greater Detroit NAGLREP chapter, said that not only has his membership increased his business, but it’s also given him confidence that he’s able to advocate for members of his own community, too.
“I quickly signed on and joined in January of 2018 and have been with them since. I have actually had some LGBT clients who have come specifically to me through the NAGLREP website,” he said. “They looked for a city and state via their website and they found me and I matched and they connected. So, it’s been good for business and I’m very much in line, from a national perspective, [with what] NAGLREP is doing with fair Housing and LGBT advocacy and non-discrimination. It’s very heartening to see at the national level, some of the things that are able to be done when we all work together.”
Wives Sherry and Tina Swift were also in attendance. The couple owns a coaching, training and consulting company aimed at supporting real estate professionals and said that they were delighted to join the group when asked.
“A little over 50 percent of our clientele are realtors, so we were invited three years ago to NAGLREP in Palm Springs to speak at the national convention and we have been members and participating ever since,” Sherry Swift said. “We are super excited as Detroiters to be able to support the Greater Detroit Chapter and excited to be a part of the leadership and the team here.”
Jason Heilig, another member realtor in attendance, said that it was NAGLREP’s commitment to community support that drew him in.
“So for Greater Detroit, we’re trying to reach out and just bring greater diversity to everybody and we have so many different cultures and people from all walks of life and we go down to Detroit, to Dearborn, up here in Bloomfield Hills, Christopher [Ayers] and I do a lot of business in Southeast Michigan,” he said. “so we are seeing people from all different cultures. And it’s not all about gays and lesbians, we have allies and straight members as well, so you don’t have to be gay to be in NAGLREP.”
Swift summed up the local chapter’s goals well.
“You know, it’s all about the relationships, the affiliate partnerships and connecting people who aren’t necessarily inside of the LGBT community and pulling them in and providing an opportunity for advocacy and for partnership,” she said. “We are hoping that all of the lenders, all of the title companies, no matter what your orientation is, we’re hoping that everyone comes in and can be a part of advocating this presence in the community and area.”
To find out more about NAGLREP and the Greater Detroit Chapter, go online to NAGLREP.com. For membership information, contact James Christbrook at James@ShainPark.com.