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Out students at historically black colleges face unique challenges

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CBCU, gay news, Washington Blade
HBCUs, gay news, Washington Blade

Building relationships, transparency and creating resources are crucial to LGBTQ organizing on HBCU campuses.

By TRINICE McNALLY and ALLISON MARIE TURNER

The intersection of race, sexual orientation and gender identity is the everyday lived experience of LGBTQ students on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These factors create unique challenges for students on these campuses and the campuses themselves.

These types of campuses are often overlooked when it comes to money and resources. As a movement, we continually fail in providing support toward minority-serving institutions, especially those in rural areas and the South. However, there has been growing visibility and progress at HBCUs and in recent years.

Campuses working to meet the intersectional needs of students include Bethune-Cookman University’s Gay-Straight Alliance, which has more than 100 members; Morehouse College’s LGBTQ course offering; Fayetteville State University’s LGBTQ center, making it the third HBCU to have one; and Virginia State University’s Lavender Graduation ceremony to recognize its commitment to LGBTQ graduates.

Thanks to the work of student leaders and staff at HBCUs, these campuses are increasing the visibility of and resources for LGBTQ students and their specific needs. This July, at Campus Pride’s Summer Leadership Academy, there were more than 30 student leaders and staff in attendance from various HBCUs. Through caucuses, workshops and conversations between students and advisors, a theme of the unique issues HBCU LGBTQ students face, as well as the unique solutions to these issues, emerged.

A majority of HBCUs were founded on religious principles, causing a conflict when that particular faith, or the mainstream interpretations of that faith in the black community, do not support LGBTQ people. LGBTQ students who attend HBCUs are often told they are going to hell or that they should repent to “pray the gay away.”

Additionally, the black community has suffered from stigma in regard to mental health for years. Historically, people of color don’t seek counseling and are deemed as “crazy” if seeking mental health professional help or suggested to “pray about it.” This combines with a history of pathologizing queerness, creating additional barriers for black LGBTQ students when they experience feelings of difference when it comes to their gender identity or sexual orientation.

People of color often feel as if we must choose between our ethnicity and sexual orientation or gender identity because we are often ridiculed in both as if we cannot co-exist. This often leaves us feeling isolated, ignored and marginalized. Communities of color, because they have been historically hyper-sexualized by white people, may choose not to share their sexual or gender identities for fear of “airing dirty laundry” and buying into untrue stereotypes of black people.

In order to successfully organize on HBCU campuses, there are several components that guarantee success, including relationship building, transparency and creating resources. These components allow HBCUs to address the unique issues their LGBTQ students face as multifaceted, intersectional people.

As LGBTQ and ally leaders, whether staff or student, building relationships is important. Due to the stigma and “taboo” effect of LGBTQ culture, some people don’t how to approach sexuality or gender identity. Building a relationship where people trust you is how you will gain campus support. You can have an LGBTQ organization that LGBTQ people of color don’t support if they don’t know who you truly are.

Students need to see a reflection of themselves. Not enough people of color are out on HBCU campuses. It is detrimental to youth of color, especially black men and transgender people, including non-binary people. Many people who can pass as straight or as cisgender choose not to be out publicly for safety reasons. Many professionals are closeted in communities of color, perpetuating the idea that expressing your true self is detrimental to the fight against racial oppression. Black LGBTQ youth don’t get to see proud, successful black people often because of this and miss out on role models they may need to live openly themselves.

Out of the 105 HBCUs is the United States, only three have resource centers versus the hundreds that predominantly white institutions have. Culturally there are so many barriers that HBCU campuses face that prohibit them from being exposed to possible resources. Unfortunately, HBCUs are faced with financial crisis and the ones that are running are trying to keep their schools accredited and open.

HBCUs are often ridiculed, but produce the highest number of black graduates in the country. However, the lack of resources is dooming our culture for generations to come. HBCUs need resources when they receive pushback; they need financial support to assist with programming for LGBTQ student organizations. This increases visibility of LGBTQ students at HBCUs, allowing universities to better recognize and support these groups. HBCUs need organizations, companies and government officials to show them that they matter, so that those who are dedicated to this work don’t grow weary or tired before making that impact.

 

Trinice McNally is the Coordinator of Diversity Initiatives and Gay-Straight Alliance Advisor from Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. She is proud to be an openly queer woman working at a historically Black university. Allison Marie Turner is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and mass communication and women’s and gender studies. She is a 2015 Programs and Communications Fellow for Campus Pride.

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Real Estate

Acquiring a down payment for your dream home

Unconventional strategies for finding the money you need

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Saving for your dream home? Here are some tips for finding the down payment.

Purchasing a home is a significant milestone, but for many aspiring homeowners, the biggest hurdle is saving for a down payment. While traditional saving methods are widely known, exploring creative and unconventional strategies can provide alternative pathways to gather the necessary funds. 

In this article, we will explore a range of innovative approaches to acquiring a down payment for your dream home. By thinking outside the box and considering unique options, you can turn your homeownership aspirations into reality.

1. Shared Equity and Co-Buying:

Consider exploring shared equity or co-buying arrangements with family members, friends, or trusted partners. Pooling resources can significantly boost your collective down payment savings, making homeownership more attainable. Whether it involves jointly purchasing a property or establishing an agreement to share ownership and expenses, this approach allows for shared financial responsibility and increased purchasing power.

2. Down Payment Assistance Programs:

Research and explore various down payment assistance programs offered by government agencies, non-profit organizations, or local housing authorities. These programs provide financial aid or grants to eligible homebuyers, assisting them in meeting the down payment requirements. Each program has specific criteria and limitations, so it is essential to understand the options available in your area.

3. Creative Financing Options:

Investigate alternative financing options such as seller financing, lease-to-own arrangements, or rent-to-own programs. These arrangements often provide more flexibility in acquiring a down payment and transitioning into homeownership. Seller financing allows buyers to negotiate terms directly with the seller, while lease-to-own or rent-to-own agreements provide an opportunity to build equity over time while renting.

4. Crowdfunding and Community Support:

Tap into the power of crowdfunding platforms and community support to gather funds for your down payment. Share your homeownership goals with family, friends, and social networks, and consider launching a crowdfunding campaign to garner financial contributions. Additionally, some employers offer matching programs for down payment savings, so explore potential workplace assistance programs or incentives.

5. Homebuyer Grants and Loans:

Research available homebuyer grants or loans specifically designed to assist first-time buyers or those with limited financial resources. These grants and loans can provide a substantial boost to your down payment savings. Government agencies, local housing authorities, and non-profit organizations often administer these programs, offering various terms and conditions to support homebuyers.

6. Income-Generating Assets:

Explore income-generating opportunities to supplement your savings. Consider renting out a spare room, starting a small business or freelancing, or investing in income-generating assets such as rental properties or dividend-paying stocks. Generating additional income can accelerate your down payment savings, bringing you closer to homeownership faster.

7. Negotiating with Sellers:

When making an offer on a property, explore the possibility of negotiating a lower down payment requirement with the seller. In some cases, sellers may be open to more flexible terms, especially if it expedites the sale or helps them achieve their own financial goals. Engage in open and honest communication during the negotiation process to explore mutually beneficial solutions.

8. Downsize or Liquidate Assets:

Consider downsizing your current living situation or liquidating assets that are not essential to free up funds for a down payment. This could involve selling a car, downsizing to a smaller rental, or parting with belongings that hold significant value. Evaluate your current financial situation and identify areas where you can make temporary sacrifices to prioritize homeownership.

9. Savings and Budgeting Strategies:

Implement creative savings and budgeting strategies to accelerate your down payment savings. Explore the possibility of living with roommates, cutting back on discretionary expenses, or negotiating lower interest rates on existing debts. Every dollar saved brings you closer to your down payment goal, so diligently review your budget and identify areas where you can reduce expenses and allocate more funds towards your down payment savings.

10. Employer Assistance Programs:

Check if your employer offers any homeownership assistance programs or benefits. Some companies provide down payment matching programs, low-interest loans, or financial counseling services to help employees achieve homeownership. Take advantage of these resources and explore how your employer can support you in reaching your down payment goals.

Persistence and creativity are key when it comes to acquiring a down payment. Stay focused on your goal, be open to alternative methods, and adapt your approach as needed. With determination, resourcefulness, and a willingness to explore new avenues, you can overcome financial barriers and achieve your dream of homeownership. Start exploring these unconventional strategies today and take a step closer to making your dream home a reality.

Jeff Hammerberg is the founder of GayRealEstate.com, the largest and longest-running gay real estate agent referral service in the nation, boasting more than 3,500 LGBTQ Realtors who operate in cities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For more than 25 years, he has been a prolific writer, coach, and author.

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Real Estate

Thinking of renting your place short-term in D.C.?

Here are some key factors to consider

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You’ll need a license if renting your place in D.C.

Summer is coming, and in D.C., many homeowners turn their attention to generating revenue from their primary D.C. residence while they are away for the summer. Due to the way some D.C. employers enable staff to work remotely and permit longer vacation schedules in the summer months, many owners can find extra income annually by considering short-term rentals. Here are a few key things you should know before getting started.  

In 2021 the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs announced it was “finally ready to start implementing and enforcing ” a law passed three years earlier for short-term rentals (AirBnB, VRBO, etc.). According to DCist, the agency started accepting license applications for short-term rentals on Jan. 10 last year and started enforcing the law’s provisions in April 2022.

According to Martin Austermuhle’s “D.C. to Start Restricting Airbnb and Other Short-Term Rentals” he wrote for DCist, “The law applies specifically to short-term rentals, those lasting less than 30 days at a time. Under the new law, any D.C. homeowner who wants to rent out a bedroom, basement, or entire home on Airbnb or any other platform has to get a short-term rental license from DCRA. (The two-year license costs $104.50.)”

Charlotte Perry, owner of LUXbnb, a property manager specializing in furnished short-term rentals in D.C. for more than 15 years, is a trusted partner to Columbia Property Management. She shared her expertise and guidance with me on short-term rentals. Her business, LUXbnb, punches above its weight in the D.C. area, bringing owners greater opportunity to realize the gains they hope to make. She brings deep insight into what you can expect if you were to go down this path with your property. 

Companies like hers function like any other property manager might. LUXbnb collects the rents, “hotel” taxes, security deposits, departure cleaning, and any other applicable feeds on behalf of the owner. They manage turnover between guests including cleaning and any needed repairs. And at the end of each month, they release the rental income earned less the management fee and any repair costs or new purchases.

In the District, if the owner resides at the house during the rental, s/he can host short-term renters all year long with no consequence. However, if, like many of Charlotte’s clients, the owner is renting their property while they are gone during the summer or while on assignment for, say, the World Bank, those owners can only do so for a total of 90 days for the entire year. Owners like these will want to consider that under the new law, you cannot rent out your second home as an Airbnb/VRBO short term rental, and so knowing the regulations can save you a lot of headaches.

Registration Requirements  

Did you know all short-term rental hosts in D.C. are required to obtain a Short-term Rental License? 

According to the Office of Short-term Rental Licensing, “In order to operate a short-term or vacation rental in the District, the property must be owned by an individual, and serve as a homeowner’s primary residence – with the owner being eligible to receive the Homestead Tax Deduction. ”

To be eligible for such a license the home must be your primary residence and owner-occupied.  You will need to provide DC’s Office of Short-term Rental Licensing (DLCP) the following:

Specify whether you currently have a Homestead Exemption on the property.

Proof of your liability insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage. (See below for more details).

A Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name must be obtained from the Office of Tax and Revenue.

The owner, or “host,” must attest to the habitability of the property.

If the rental is a co-op, condo, or if the property is in a community where there is a homeowners’ association, the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.

Once you have successfully registered with DLCP, you will be provided with a license. You will then upload this Short-term Rental License number into your property profile in both Airbnb and VRBO. Those sites will then provide bookings for “under-31-nights” on your property.  

By working with an experienced rental property manager specializing in furnished temporary stays, you can ensure that you’re operating your short-term rental legally and safely. Better yet, you can avoid any penalties or fines that could result from non-compliance with District regulations.

Some factors you might want to consider on your journey to short-term rental success:

Cleaning Fee and Preparation Service

Perhaps you’ll want to have a cleaning service at-the-ready in case your renters have a slight disaster while they’re there. Or maybe you’ll want a service to clean prior to arrivals and directly after departures, so you can quickly turnaround the property for further rental. 

Pets

Do you want pets in your home while you’re away? If so, you might want to add in an automatic post-stay pet cleaning fee to cover the expense of hair and other less pleasant odor removal.

Insurance/Accidental Damage

Charlotte’s company takes out a $3,000 accidental damage insurance policy on every stay in lieu of holding a damage deposit. The cost to the guest is $39 per rental. This insurance is a safe-guard for the guest, property owner and her company, of course. This insurance policy “allows for the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another – in this case the insurance company. It is a simple way for all parties involved to mitigate risk, and most importantly, provides peace-of-mind.”

Liability Insurance

As you saw above, the District requires all owners to possess a liability insurance policy with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage to gain a license in the District. A variety of companies can help, according to the Motley Fool’s “The Ascent” newsletter, but some do this faster and better than others. And they even recommend ones that are best for Airbnb and VRBO rental owners. The Ascent’s best homeowners insurance for short-term rentals include the following:

Allstate Insurance: Best for possessing a large network of agents

Proper Insurance: Best for Airbnb and VRBO owners

Nationwide Insurance : Best for bundling policies

Farmers Insurance : Best for vacation rentals

Steadily Insurance: Best for getting coverage quickly

Safely Insurance: Best for fast claims processing

Should you have further questions or seek to explore the option of short or mid-term rentals, do not hesitate to contact Charlotte Perry directly at 202-341-8799 or [email protected]

Scott Bloom is senior property manager and owner of Columbia Property Management. 

For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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Business

Montgomery County supports LGBTQ businesses amid ‘headwinds’

Economic Development Corporation leader on overcoming barriers to success

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MCEDC President and CEO Bill Tompkins and Facility Logic Founder and President Pat Larrabee.

Growing up Black in the D.C. area, Bill Tompkins learned early to appreciate diversity. In Maryland, as president and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, this understanding drives his support for LGBTQ-owned businesses. 

“With the headwinds that the LGBTQ community runs into, we want to make sure we’re giving everyone the right opportunity to do well here,” Tompkins said. 

The corporation, created in 2016 as a public-private economic development organization, helps businesses start, grow and relocate in Montgomery County. They are also tasked with supporting underserved communities.

“MCEDC staff know our capabilities very well and that we’re experts in what we do,” said Pat Larrabee, founder and president of Facility Logix, a firm assisting biotech companies with relocating to specialized facilities. “They’ve been very helpful to us and our clients, and on projects.”

Larrabee, a Vermont native, met her partner during a softball game in Montgomery County. They married and raised three daughters in the county in part because of the “favorable environment.”

In 2020, Montgomery County unanimously passed Maryland’s first LGBTQ Bill of Rights, which included adding gender expression and HIV status to existing anti-discrimination protections. 

“We’re always doing these things because it’s the right thing to do,”  Tompkins explained. 

However, across the country many LGBTQ businesses struggle to survive, citing access to capital as a significant problem. 

Challenges accessing capital 

Nationally, LGBTQ-owned small businesses were more likely to report operational and financial challenges, according to a 2022 report released by the Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement and Research and the Movement Advancement, using data from the Federal Reserve Bank’s annual Small Business Credit Survey. 

Inc. Magazine, in partnership with the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, StartOut and MasterCard, reported 82 percent of LGBTQ business owners said limited access to capital affected their day-to-day operations, and 93 percent stated it limited their ability to grow.   

“Small businesses, particularly those that are LGBTQ+ owned, often face unique challenges and barriers to success,” Larry G. Webb, the district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Washington Metropolitan Area District Office stated in an email to the Blade. 

Webb, who resides with his husband in the region, also stated LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and small business owners have access to all of the programs and services SBA offers, including counseling and training, loans and capital, contracting programs and disaster recovery assistance. 

“By providing support and resources, we can help to level the playing field that gives businesses a better chance at success, and help to strengthen the social bonds that hold our communities together,” he stated. 

Maryland is among 34 states without credit and lending nondiscrimination laws explicitly protecting LGBTQ borrowers, according to the Movement Advancement Project.  

“Obviously, this can create a difficult environment for LGBTQ+ businesses to thrive,” said Terri Hett, Maryland LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce Board President, also citing the current political environment as concerning for some chamber members. “Of course, additional economic support with the state and local governments would be extremely helpful. This could include grants or legislation that continues to support and protect these business owners.”

Tompkins agreed that “credit risk is a big challenge” facing many small business owners, including members of the LGBTQ community. 

But he also pointed to Denizens Brewing Co., co-founded by married partners Emily Bruno and Julie Verratti, as just one example where working together can help overcome those challenges. 

Denizens, like other businesses in the county, received support and resources from the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. 

Last year, the corporation was approved by the state to provide loans through Maryland’s Small, Minority and Women-Owned Business Account. 

The Accelerating Community Excellence (ACE) Loan fund will provide $1.5 million in financial assistance to assist eligible businesses in underserved communities. 

“We’re the only fund agent in Montgomery County to provide loans to underserved communities, to include LGBT-owned businesses,” Tompkins said. “People who apply to us may have been turned down by banks. But we know FICO scores are just a small part of the equation.”

These supports could help many LGBTQ-owned businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, in their struggle to survive. 

Jan Guttman, a MoCo Pride Center board member and parent of a nonbinary trans youth, has been working to create a local LGBTQ chamber of commerce to help local businesses network and share resources. 

“It’s been difficult,” she admitted. “We’ve had businesses coming and going, and one that went under.”

Guttman, a former educator who worked with at-risk youth, said it’s important because these business owners and entrepreneurs serve as vital role models for LGBTQ youth.

“I started trying to gather Montgomery County owned and operated businesses that would want to share my vision of this workspace where the front part would be aimed at LGBTQ adults – to have a space to sit with their laptop – so kids could see them,” Guttman explained. “Because they often don’t see their future selves.”

Her goal is to secure a location and financing for a community co-working space, where LGBTQ professionals can network and, most importantly, where LGBTQ youth can see them and be inspired to succeed. They also serve as safe spaces for LGBTQ youth to work and be themselves. 

Small businesses as community ‘backbone’

Webb also pointed out that local small businesses are the “job creators and economic engine” for the country as a whole. 

“Small business owners not only earn a living for themselves,” he said. “They are the backbone of many communities that help drive our nation’s economic strength. Providing support and resources for small businesses, including those that are LGBTQ+ owned, is essential for their success and for the overall health of the economy.”

Similarly, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation has supported LGBTQ-owned businesses across a variety of fields in an effort to support local diversity and their economy. 

Tompkins works closely with county government officials to coordinate their economic development priorities and short-term needs with MCEDC’s current business activities. He has a long record in business operations, strategic planning, marketing, and nonprofit management, serving for most of his career as a senior executive in the media and entertainment industries with Fortune 500 companies. He has worked for the Washington Post and served as president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents more than 200 Black-owned-and-operated newspapers across the nation.

“Where there is prejudice, there are barriers,” Tompkins said. “If you’re going to be a part of the DMV, then you should be very embracing of those with backgrounds that are similar to yours and different.”

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