The Hispanic Homeownership Gap




photo by Gabriel Santana

Freddie Mac’s latest Economic & Housing Research Insight asks Will the Hispanic Homeownership Gap Persist? It opens,

This is the American story.

A wave of immigrants arrives in the U.S. Perhaps they’re escaping religious or political persecution. Perhaps a drought or famine has driven them from their homes. Perhaps they simply want to try their luck in the land of opportunity.

They face new challenges in America. Often they arrive with few resources. And everything about them sets them apart—their religions, their languages, their cultures, their foods, their appearances. They are not always welcomed. They frequently face discrimination in housing, jobs, education, and more. But over time, they plant their roots in American soil. They become part of the tapestry that is America. And they thrive.

This is the story of the Germans and Italians and many other ethnic groups that poured into the U.S. a century ago.

Today’s immigrants come, for the most part, from Latin America and Asia instead of Europe. Hispanics comprise by far the largest share of the current wave. Over the last 50 years, more than 30 million Hispanics migrated to the U.S. And these Hispanics face many of the same challenges as earlier European immigrants.

Homeownership provides a key measure of transition from a newly-arrived immigrant to an established resident. Many immigrants arrive without the financial resources needed to purchase a home. In addition, the unfamiliarity and complexity of the U.S. housing and mortgage finance systems pose obstacles to homeownership. As a result, homeownership rates start low for new immigrants but rise over time.

The homeownership rate among Hispanics in the U.S.—a population that includes new immigrants, long-standing citizens, and everything in between— stands around 45 percent, more than 20 percentage points lower than the rate among non-Hispanic whites. Much of this homeownership gap can be traced to differences in age, income, education and other factors associated with homeownership.

Will the Hispanic homeownership gap close over time, as it did for the European immigrants of a century ago? Or will a significant gap stubbornly persist, as it has for African-Americans? (1-2)

It concludes,

Census projections of future age distributions suggest that the age differences of Whites and Hispanics will be reduced by six percent (0.7 years) by 2025 and 12 percent (1.2 years) by 2035. If these projections are realized, the White/Hispanic homeownership gap is likely to narrow by 20 percent (five percentage points) by 2035. The Census projections include both current residents and future immigrants, and averaging the characteristics of these two groups of Hispanics tends to mask the relatively-rapid growth in homeownership among the current residents.

It is important to remember that about 13 percent of the White/Hispanic homeownership gap cannot be traced to population characteristics such as age and income. The explanation for this residual gap is unclear, although some of it may be due to wealth gaps and discrimination. (12)

Researchers at the Urban Institute have documented the importance of the Hispanic homeownership rate to the housing market more generally. It is worthwhile for policymakers to focus on it as well.

The State of Predatory Lending

By U.S. Treasury Department (CFPB Conference on the Credit Card Act, 02/22/2011) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Center for Responsible Lending has posted the final chapter of The State of Lending in America: The Cumulative Costs of Predatory Practices. This chapter’s findings include,

  • Loans with problematic terms or practices result in higher rates of default and foreclosure/ repossession. For example, dealer-brokered auto loans, which often contain abusive provisions, are twice as likely to result in repossession as bank- or credit union-financed auto loans.
  • The consequences of default, repossession, bankruptcy, and foreclosure are long-term. For example, one in seven job-seekers with blemished credit has been passed over for employment after a credit check, and borrowers who experience default pay much more for subsequent credit.
  • The opportunity costs of abusive loans are significant. For example, during the same period that subprime loans peaked and millions of families unnecessarily lost their homes, families with similar credit characteristics who sustained homeownership experienced on average an $18,000 increase in wealth per family.
  • Abusive loans have an impact on the economy as a whole. The foreclosure crisis depleted overall housing wealth and led to millions of job losses; predatory practices have been shown to diminish public trust and confidence in the financial system; and there is evidence that student debt is preventing economic growth, especially for young families.
  • Across many financial products, low-income borrowers and borrowers of color are disproportionately affected by abusive loan terms and practices. Families with annual incomes below $25,000– $35,000 are much more likely to receive an abusive loan product. And in most cases, borrowers of color are two to three times more likely to receive an abusive loan compared with a white counterpart. The discriminatory effects of abusive lending clearly contribute to the widening wealth gap between families of color and white families.
  • Loans with problematic terms are repeatedly concentrated in neighborhoods of color. Subprime mortgages and payday loans are two examples. Such concentration leads to a net drain of community wealth and value that could have been spent on productive economic activity and meeting vital community needs.
  • Debt plays a profound role in the financial lives of most American households, with about three-quarters of households having at least one form of debt and many having multiple forms of debt. Indeed, most consumers are not simply mortgage holders, credit card users, payday loan borrowers, or car-title borrowers; they are likely to participate in more than one of these markets, often at the same time.
  • Regulation and enforcement is an effective means for ending lending abuses while preserving access to credit. For example, the Credit Card Accountability and Disclosure Act of 2009 (Credit CARD Act) has continued to give people access to credit cards, while eliminating more than $4 billion in abusive fees and overall saving consumers $12.6 billion annually. (6-7)

The Center for Responsible Lending is a very effective advocate for consumer protection in the financial services industry. That being said, I found it interesting that they were very circumspect in their section on Future Areas of Regulation. (33) They referenced the existing Credit CARD Act, Dodd-Frank Act, state payday lending laws and federal payday lending regulations, but they did not identify any aspects of the consumer financial services market that need additional regulation. Hard to imagine it, but it seems that CRL believes that we have reached regulatory Nirvana, at least in theory.