Jun 10, 2021 By Victoria Grdina
It’s a story that’s been repeated for decades: A young LGBTQ+ person struggles in small-town America, moves to a big city where they come out and are welcomed into a community that encourages them to be their authentic self. Moves like this are often the result of government policy: Cities tend to have more fair housing laws than suburban or rural areas to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
The story can have a happy ending, but at a cost: According to Zillow research, areas that offer laws against discrimination in housing come with a higher price tag, meaning LGBTQ+ buyers who can’t afford to live in those places must forego the protections.
Work to add LGBT legal protections into listings began as a grassroots effort by members of the Zillow LGBTQ+ Pride affinity network. The information was first available in 2018 on Trulia, which was acquired by Zillow in 2015. Jake Piccini, then a Zillow technology intern in Lincoln, Neb., watched the launch.
“I was blown away because I didn’t really know how much LGBTQ+ pride there was at Zillow.” As a gay man who grew up and attended college in Nebraska, which has no LGBTQ+ legal protections, Piccini says he wanted to take the project further.
So the next summer, while an intern in Seattle, Piccini pitched a Hack Week project to show how the content could be built into the Zillow platform. LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies at Zillow volunteered to help him. “The fact that you don’t have to be in the community to be involved in it shows you how amazing the culture is at Zillow.”
Piccini recently graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Last week he joined Zillow full-time, a company where he says he doesn’t have to “compromise my morals.” Piccini says the LGBTQ+ legal protections work “ranks pretty high up there in terms of personal fulfillment and the kind of impact I can have on the world.”
Read the full story on Zillow's website.