Study: Immigrants Fueling Demand for Housing

Having weathered the economic storms of the past several years, real estate values are finally crawling out of the basement. The trend is bending upward in many local markets, with housing prices continuing to rise. Mortgage giant, Freddie Mac, is predicting an increase of 8 to 10 percent in home sales this year, compared to 2012. [See Freddie Has High Expectations for Spring Market, Daily Real Estate News, 21.Mar.2013.]

Some may be surprised by the extent to which immigrant homebuyers and renters are fueling housing demand across the country. A new study from the Mortgage Bankers Association examines real estate trends from 1980 to the present, and projects these trends up to the year 2020, finding that “homeownership and rental demand of foreign-born households will continue to increase as growing number of immigrants settle longer in the United States.” [See New Report Shows Housing Demand Among Immigrants to Grow Nationwide, Press Release, Mortgage Bankers Association, 06.Mar.2013. Read the full study, Immigrant Contributions to Housing Demand in the United States, by Dowell Myers and John Pitkin, Mortgage Bankers Association, March 2013.]

As the Mortgage Bankers Association summarized its key findings:

  • “The volume of growth in foreign-born homeowners has increased each decade, rising from 0.8 million added immigrant homeowners in the United States during 1980-1990, to 2.1 million added in 1990-2000, to 2.4 million added in 2000-2010, and is projected to rise further to 2.8 million in growth in the current decade (2010-2020).
  • “Between 2010-2020, immigrants nationwide are projected to account for 32.2 percent of the growth in all households, including 35.7 percent growth in homeowners and 26.4 percent growth in renter households.
  • “Between 2010-2020, foreign-born ownership demand is projected to remain a majority of growth in six states: California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan.
  • “Foreign-born homeownership demand rose most dramatically in the newer destination states. For example, in Georgia and North Carolina, immigrants accounted for 34.1 percent and 24.8 percent respectively, from 2000-2010, nearly triple immigrants’ shares of homeowner growth of the 1990s in those states.
  • “In the current decade, foreign-born renters comprise over one third of projected total growth in seven states: California, Washington D.C. metro area, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Illinois.”

These findings are not just of interest to Washington number-crunchers; every American homeowner should sit up and take notice, because housing demand fueled by immigrants will help prop up home prices for some time to come. If not for the nation’s immigrant population, the rebound in housing markets would surely be weaker – no small thing, when one considers that buying a house is the largest investment most Americans will ever make.

The study should be required reading for the dwindling remainder of immigration skeptics who still doubt – against all evidence to the contrary – that immigrants make important contributions to the health of our national economy. One hopes that Washington policymakers will take the study’s message to heart, too.

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