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Immigrant Homebuyers Helped Post-crisis Bounceback

Strong immigrant housing demand played a large role in the industry’s recovery from the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Urban Land Institute’s [1] Terwilliger Center for Housing [2].

The report, called “Home in America: Immigrants and Housing Demand [3],” found that foreign-born homebuyers helped the housing industry bounce back from the recession—particularly in robust markets like San Francisco.

“Without growth of the foreign population, regions with strong housing markets such as San Francisco would not have recovered as quickly following the recession,” the report stated. “Markets that continue to struggle in the recession's aftermath such as Buffalo would have experienced even weaker growth. Overall, recent immigration to those and other metropolitan areas has had a positive effect on local housing markets.”

But it’s not just the impact immigrants have already had on the industry that the report examines; it’s also the effect they’ll have on housing moving forward—namely, the way they’ll influence growth patterns in certain areas.

“Immigrants have helped stabilize and strengthen the housing market throughout the recovery," said Stockton Williams, Executive Director for the Terwilliger Center for Housing. "Immigrants' housing purchasing power and preferences are significant economic assets for metropolitan regions across the country. This suggests the potential for much more growth attributable to foreign-born residents in the years ahead.”

Statistically, immigrant homeownership rates rise as their length of time in the country does.

“In San Francisco, Houston, and Buffalo, the homeownership rate among immigrants who have been in the country since at least 2006 is similar to the rate for the native-born population,” the report found. “Immigrants, therefore, will be a key source of demand for homeownership in the years to come.”

So where will immigrants impact the markets most? That’d be the suburbs, according to the report.

“Immigrants seeking to own homes, as well as those renting homes, are increasingly drawn to the suburbs in search of employment opportunities, lower-cost housing, and a higher quality of life,” the report stated. “Suburbs are home to high-income, high-skilled immigrants, as well as lower-income, lesser-skilled immigrants.”

As immigrant homeownership grows, the report suggested, communities need to work to keep them connected and engaged.

“Urban areas experiencing significant immigrant population growth should explore how to best accommodate immigrants and leverage the positive effect they have on the housing industry and economy. Investments in housing, retail, recreational and cultural amenities, as well as social assistance and education programs can help forge a strong connection between immigrants, neighborhoods, and the greater community.”

Read the full report at Uli.org. [3]