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Immigration: The Key to Housing Sustainability

According to the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the housing industry could suffer on a nationwide level if current rates of immigration into the United States are “not sustained.” ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing recently released a new report, “Home in America: Immigrants and Housing Demand,” addressing the topic. Stockton Williams, the center’s executive director, said in a public statement that not only has the U.S. immigrant population “helped stabilize and strengthen the housing market throughout the recovery,” but that its “purchasing power and preferences are significant economic assets for metropolitan regions across the country.” He added that these precedents indicate, to him, that foreign-born residents will continue to fuel housing growth in the future.

As a broad population, immigrants tend to have strong aspirations for homeownership. In the report, the analysts observed that “higher-income immigrants,” specifically, they said, those from China and India, have the potential to “accelerate the demand for homeownership among the foreign-born population.” However, they added, a decline in immigration levels across the board could still weaken the housing market.

In the report, the researchers identified five types “gateway” cities for immigration and studied one example in particular for each type of gateway. Those cities were: San Francisco, Houston, Buffalo, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Charlotte, North Carolina. San Francisco was defined as a “major continuous gateway,” meaning that it has hosted a “large and sustained immigrant population” throughout the past two centuries. Houston was defined as a post-World War II gateway, meaning it has attracted large numbers of immigrants since the mid-20th century. Buffalo was classified as a former gateway due to its status as a former major entry point into the U.S. in the early-to-mid-20th century. Minneapolis-St.Paul was identified as a re-emerging gateway, and Charlotte a new major emerging gateway.

Based on these classifications, the researchers evaluated immigrant housing decisions and residence patterns in these different types of gateway cities. They determined that not only does an immigrant population bolster a thriving economy, but that it also can “help boost revitalization in economically challenged suburbs” and help “sustain success” in established neighborhoods. These diverse roles in the housing community indicate, according to the ULI, that the growth and diversity of the U.S. immigrant population is directly tied to the growth and stability of the U.S. housing market.

About the Author

Carole VanSickle Ellis serves as vice president of research and analysis at the Self-Directed Investor Society, helping investors “declare independence from Wall Street.” Contact her at editor@bryanellis.com or visit sdiradio.com.