Hispanic Heritage Month, first proclaimed by President George H.W. Bush on Sept. 14, 1989, is celebrated annually from mid-September to mid-October. Here, RISMedia interviews several notable professionals advocating for closing the diversity homeownership gap and introducing solutions to some of the challenges the Hispanic community faces within the housing market.
“It’s an ideal time for real estate practitioners to reach out to Hispanic and Latino families and share information about how to qualify for a mortgage, the importance of having credit history and a strong credit profile, and the availability of low down payment products and assistance programs in all 50 states,” National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) President Sara Rodriguez tells RISMedia.
Statistically, Hispanic homeownership has increased from 45.4% in 2014 to more than 48% in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—the largest increase among all ethnicities during that period, Rodriguez notes.
The Urban Institute estimates that between now and 2040, more than 70% of new homeowners will be Latino—and Freddie Mac reports there are currently some 8.4 million “mortgage-ready” Latinos in the U.S.
But despite improvements in recent years, Hispanic homeownership still significantly lags behind non-Hispanic white homeownership—a gap that has implications for the total wealth gap between these groups, Rodriguez says.
Short- and long-term solutions range from universal document translation to creating more Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and to finding better financing options for multifamily homebuyers, she notes.
But too many Hispanics still face language and/or credit barriers, including antiquated views about creditworthiness.
Teresa Palacios Smith, at 9 years old, was the sole interpreter for her Colombian-immigrant parents in their quest to purchase their first home in Florida.
Today, the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for HomeServices of America is dedicated to working with agents and lenders to create a level playing field for Latino homebuyers.
“People tend to see Latinos as a single entity,” says Palacios Smith, a former NAHREP president. “But there are three types of Latino buyers; the relatively affluent, the mainstream ‘Hispennials’ (Hispanic millennials who face language or credit problems in addition to typical first-time buyer issues), and the newer immigrant group, who need the most help with pre-qualifying, document interpretation and other challenges.”
April Alexander, national community development and outreach manager for Prosperity Home Mortgage, focuses on building relationships with housing authorities to develop new ways to help underserved minorities.
“I know firsthand the challenges of minority homebuyers,” says Alexander. “We partner with trade organizations, HUD, and financial literacy organizations to develop and raise awareness about low-fee programs and FHA/VA qualifying rates that increase opportunity.”
Patty Arvielo is a first-generation Hispanic American who worked her way up from the lowest rungs in the lending industry to co-found, with her husband, one of the largest Latina-owned private mortgage companies in the nation.
New American Funding has been recognized by Fortune Magazine and Great Place to Work for fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture that respects and appreciates differences among employees, Arvielo says. And the company’s Latino Focus and New American Dream programs aim to improve the lending experience for minority homebuyers.
Top-producing real estate agent Michael Aragon, with Coldwell Banker Apex Realty, works in El Paso, Texas—one of two cities (the other is Laredo) that have a higher rate of Hispanic homeownership today than non-Hispanic, white homeownership.
Aragon, whose family had to overcome Lupus—a disease that disproportionately affects women of Hispanic and Asian descent—as well as lending issues, is well aware of the impact his border city’s sizable immigrant population has on the local economy and his part in promoting homeownership.
“Home is sacred to the structure of Latino families,” says the NAHREP member and NAR-certified Military Relocation Professional (MRP), who maintains a regular presence at the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss in El Paso and at the city’s annual Walk to End Lupus in order to educate servicemen and walk participants about emerging strategies for homeownership.
On Sept. 29 in San Diego, California, during Hispanic Heritage Month, NAHREP recognizes 250 of the nation’s top agents and mortgage originators for their professional achievements—not simply for their production records, but for their devotion to overcoming adversities to make homeownership possible for more families of Hispanic descent.
The annual awards event is part of the NAHREP Convention and Housing Policy Summit, which runs this year from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, and will bring together industry dealmakers, government officials, and housing and real estate executives for three days of education, celebration and networking.
The need and the efforts to find solutions are the reason why the industry’s brightest from NAHREP will gather in San Diego to celebrate achievements and brainstorm financial and social strategies aimed at increasing minority homeownership.
The annual conference is also the site for unveiling the annual State of Hispanic Homeownership Report, NAHREP’s leading publication.
“We are laser-focused on developing new solutions for Hispanic homeownership in this decade and beyond,” Rodriguez says.
“We are all about expanding pride and empowering industry professionals to help more real-estate ready Hispanic and Latino families live the American Dream,” adds Rodriguez. “Homeownership is the cornerstone of wealth creation and a stabilizing force for working families, and this convention is a boots-on-the-ground effort to share information on current initiatives, housing policy changes and recommendations to help advance these goals.”
Barbara Pronin is a contributing editor to RISMedia.