Gay areas in UK cities have grown in popularity over the years. But do they still represent good value for buyers and renters? We decided to find out.
Lots of Britain’s major cities have a gay neighbourhood – a welcoming area where the LGBTQ+ community congregate.
In less tolerant times, they were safer havens to unite in the face of prejudice. But as attitudes changed, many became transformed from deprived and unloved areas into flourishing and sought-after central city locations.
What has this meant for property? Is there still value to be found for buyers or renters when compared to the rest of the town or city? Or are you too late to move in on a bargain?
We crunched Zoopla's housing data for some of the country's most-loved gay neighbourhoods to find out.
The good news for buyers is that our research found that 70% of gay neighbourhoods still offer cheaper options for buyers than the city average. It's only Manchester’s Canal Street, Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle and London’s Old Compton Street that buck the trend.
Prices in two gay neighbourhoods – Old Market Quarter in Bristol and Vauxhall in south east London – most noticeably outperformed the wider area, although both come from a comparably low base.
As for whether to rent or buy, we found that average mortgage repayments in Brighton, Birmingham and Glasgow work out cheaper than monthly rent in their respective gay neighbourhoods, but in Manchester it's the reverse.
Read on to find out more about living in the gay neighbourhoods of:
England’s second city has seen lots of redevelopment since work began on the Big City Plan, a 20-year framework to create new jobs, homes and public spaces in the centre.
One beneficiary has been the only gay neighbourhood clearly delineated on Google Maps, Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ hub.
Centred along Hurst Street, it lies just a 10-minute walk south of the city centre. It's listed on the Visit Birmingham website as being "renowned for its lively, cosmopolitan environment and free-thinking attitude.”
Like the rest of Birmingham, homeowners in the area have seen their properties do well over the last five years, with average price rises of 22%.
Renting in the gay neighbourhood is comparatively expensive, though. At £903 per month on average, it costs more than £100 extra to rent here than the rest of the city, and eats up nearly two fifths (39%) of the average salary.
Often dubbed Britain’s gay capital, Brighton’s council estimates that between 11% and 15% of the city’s population is lesbian, gay or bisexual, which is over five times the national average of 2%.
Lesbian and gay bars started to spring up in the 1930s and, coupled with Brighton's proximity and access to London, it became a place for the community to live after the Second World War.
The city boasts the busiest annual Pride parade outside of London and a comprehensive infrastructure that includes LGBTQ+ specific sports clubs, mental health and youth services and a comprehensive archive of gay history.
Kemptown to the east side of the pier is home to the LGBTQ+ neighbourhood. Truly feeling like a village, the colourful buildings contrast cheerfully with the predominantly white regency exteriors that dominate the skyline – and outside of London's Soho, it’s a sure bet you won’t find more rainbow flags.
Although price rises and the cost of property are similar whether you’re in the gay neighbourhood or not, on average it is a lot more expensive to rent in Kemptown than to service a monthly mortgage.
Bristol’s gay village, based in Old Market, east of the regenerated shopping area Cabot Circus, straddles a major traffic thoroughfare that was once the main route to London.
Compared to other cities, this LGBTQ+ neighbourhood is relatively young, with gay businesses starting to flourish in the area in the mid-Nineties.
Today it’s home to many independent firms including The Bristol Bear Bar, which claims to be the only one in the UK dedicated to this part of gay culture.
The city council has also designated Old Market a conservation area as it contains a collection of 60 listed buildings, including the Stag and Hounds pub, which dates from 1483.
House prices in Old Market have risen by 28.57% in the last five years, outstripping rises across Bristol by 6%. But properties still remain £60,000 cheaper than in the rest of the city on average.
Renting in the gay neighbourhood is also more affordable, with the average costs of £907 a month coming in well below £1,079 for the rest of the city.
The unremarkable-sounding B901 and Elm Row streets meet to form a V shape in Edinburgh’s city centre where you'll find CC Blooms, a bar named after Bette Midler’s character in the film Beaches, and DJs spinning tracks in dance club, Habana. Welcome to Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle.
In 2015 Scotland was rated the best country in Europe in terms of legal equality for LGBTQ+ folk by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association and remains highly rated to this day.
But if you fancy living here, it's not cheap. The Pink Triangle is one of only three gay neighbourhoods on our list where it’s more expensive to live than the rest of the city.
With an average price of £322,340, the LGBTQ+ neighbourhood's handsome architecture comes with a £30,000 premium compared to the rest of the city.
An ageing population staying in their homes, a burgeoning tech and finance sector, and students who want to remain in Edinburgh after graduating are all cited as reasons why housing stock is in demand.
North of the River Clyde in the east part of Glasgow lies Merchant City, so called because of the companies importing tea, sugar and tobacco that sprang up in the 1800s.
The area now has its own 'pink triangle' that includes many gay-friendly bars such as the long established Delmonica’s – or Del's if you're a local – which offers drag queens and discounts to local clubs in equal measure.
Aligned with its football teams and their religious allegiances, Glasgow was traditionally heavily influenced by faith.
But more recent surveys have seen Scots increasingly identifying as atheist and two of the major political parties have been led by out-and-proud gay women.
If you want to live in Glasgow’s G1 postcode, getting on to the property ladder is recommended, as renting here is 50% more expensive than monthly mortgage repayments on average.
Along with Liverpool, it's also one of just two gay neighbourhoods where mortgage payments take up less than a third of the average salary.
But at £181,000, the average price of a property still makes achieving the deposit challenging for a single person on the average local wage of £2,385.
The gay history of Leeds was officially recognised in 2016 when a blue plaque was placed on The New Penny, a gay pub that had offered a safe space for gay men marginalised in the less permissive atmosphere of the 1950s.
The pub sits a stone’s throw from the more visible landmark now pinpointing Leeds' gay neighbourhood – that of the Freedom Bridge, a railway bridge decked out in rainbow colours by Network Rail since Valentine’s Day 2017.
This change has meant that Lower Briggate, the gay area that makes up the southern border of the city centre, is now increasingly being referred to as the Freedom Quarter.
It is also the finishing point for Leeds' annual Pride parade, Yorkshire’s biggest LGBTQ+ celebration, which draws around 40,000 every year.
Of all the cities we considered, Leeds is the most uniform. Price rises inside and outside of the Freedom Quarter are on a par at around 20% over the last five years. The average property price in the gay village is £210,086, and for the wider city it’s £216,467.
There is a marked difference when it comes to renting though. It’s around 25% cheaper to take a tenancy in Briggate than it is in the rest of the city.
And with rents taking up around 41% of a single person’s salary, Leeds is where it starts to get financially challenging for those wanting to live alone.
The Stanley Street Quarter, a 10-minute walk from Liverpool Lime Street station and about the same distance west to the city’s revamped docks, became a focus for the LGBTQ+ community in the Seventies and Eighties when several gay venues first opened.
The Liverpool legends who first insisted that all you need is love, The Beatles, maintain a presence here, courtesy of an Eleanor Rigby statue (dedicated to ‘All the Lonely People’) and The Cavern Club, where the Fab Four made their name.
Nowadays the street signs sport rainbows and, as well as an established Pride celebration, the city hosts Homotopia, an annual LGBTQ+ arts festival.
Liverpool’s gay neighbourhood is also one of the more affordable on our list. Price rises have mirrored those elsewhere in the city, with homes costing 17% more than they did five years ago.
The area is a slightly cheaper place to buy than the city-wide average, with mortgage payments taking up less than the 30% of income on average.
Renting is a touch more expensive. But, at an average of £748 around Stanley Street, it's still the most affordable gay neighbourhood on our list.
Given there are few more valuable patches of land in Britain than W1, it was only a matter of time before Soho, formerly the prude-free beating heart of all things alternative in central London, would be impinged upon by the commercial concerns of Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Vauxhall offered cheaper rents, longer licences for all night revelling and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London’s oldest surviving gay venue, that is still home to the legendary Saturday night that is Duckie.
The weekends certainly last longer here than in the centre of town and it's drawn its fair share of celebrities over the years – Princess Diana was even reported to have visited the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in male drag with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
Vauxhall station is still considered a central London terminus and zone 1 comes at a bank-busting £619,448, on average, if you’re buying.
Even for a couple both earning London’s average wage of £3,000 per month, mortgage payments will eat up 39% of income.
But for those renting, living in this neighbourhood is still cheaper than the city’s average monthly cost of £3,273, and certainly cheaper than Soho.
Old Compton St.
Woe is Soho? The grande dame of gay Britain is starting to lose her lustre a little as the area no longer has as much colourful clout as it once did.
There is still a shop called Prowler and a bar called Freedom, but peep show venues have become Mexican restaurants and Madame Jo-Jo’s, once home to cabaret and queer nights, closed down in 2014.
Old Compton Street is still home to does-what-it-says-on-the-tin bar G-A-Y and still boasts Compton’s, an out-and-proud gay bar since 1986. Drag queens also still rule the roost at the Admiral Duncan pub.
Property prices have seen the least growth of all the gay neighbourhoods on our list, but this is still central London and residency here comes at a considerable cost of £1,232,427 – double the average for London as a whole.
Average rental costs will also make the eyes of all but the most wealthy water at £5,480 per calendar month, which makes it 67% more expensive to rent in than the rest of the city.
Old Compton Street and its environs has long celebrated difference and one thing’s for sure, the cost of living in this gay neighbourhood has few equals.
As the once thriving Rochdale canal became obsolete for industry, its waterways provided discreet refuge for a fledgling LGBTQ+ community to prosper.
No longer dark and deserted, it’s now an oasis of delights, ranging from the Alice in Wonderland-style Richmond Tea Rooms to ‘Butterflies’ – a regular event on Wednesdays that has become synonymous with the trans community.
It’s also home to the Alan Turing memorial, erected to commemorate the pioneer of computer science and codebreaking, who committed suicide in 1954 following prosecution for homosexual acts two years earlier.
House prices are still generally cheaper in the gay neighbourhoods than elsewhere in the city but Manchester bucks that trend.
It costs a premium of £13,707 to live around Canal Street and has become increasingly expensive in the past five years with prices rising by 28%.
Renting in the gay village costs about the same as living elsewhere in the city, at an average of £1,083 per month.
In almost all of the cities we looked at there are some sizable savings to be made by moving in or out of the LGBTQ+ area.
In seven of the 10 locations it's cheaper to buy in the gay neighbourhood than the rest of the city, with Bristol showing the biggest difference.
In contrast, London is not only by far the most expensive city, but its gay area of Old Compton St. is priced 90% above the capital's average. Edinburgh and Manchester are the only two other cities where it's more expensive to go LGBTQ+.
Words: Lee Mannion
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