Easy Design Changes Can Help Connect With Latino Market
The Hispanic population is destined to be a big part of the American future and a big part of the housing industry’s future, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros said in a Sept. 21 news conference.
“Should builders begin to design housing product that fits the needs of the Hispanic market? Yes,” Cisneros said. “There is some tweaking that needs to be done. There are modifications in the housing product that would be important. There are financing strategies and marketing strategies that could make a difference.”
A new book edited by Cisneros and available from BuilderBooks, “Casa Y Communidad: Latino Home and Neighborhood Design,” compiles writings by some of the nation’s leading experts on the Hispanic housing market and offers strategies for connecting with these buyers.
“If you have an interest in this market, then Secretary Cisneros’ book, which I read this week, is a great resource,” said New Jersey builder Dean Mon, who told the news media that on Sept. 21, 1966, 40 years earlier to the day, he came to the United States from Cuba.
“Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being here today after leaving Cuba as a young boy,” Mon said.
The growth in the Latino population has accelerated considerably since Mon first arrived.
Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the United States, with 42.7 million people in 2005 — more than 14% of U.S. population, said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. “The growth of Hispanic households also has been very strong. About 27% of net household growth has come from Hispanic households.”
The Census projects that by 2050 we could have the Hispanic share of population rising from 14% now to perhaps 25% of U.S. population, Seiders added.
“Builders who recognize the significance of Latino population growth for the housing market and the vast potential of Latinos as home buyers will sell more homes while contributing to the economic advantage of their communities,” said Cisneros, who currently serves as the chairman of CityView, community-building firms dedicated to producing workforce housing in America’s cities.
Cisneros noted a number of simple design changes that can help make a home a better fit for many Hispanic families:
- Garages that can be easily converted into bedrooms
- Floor plans that take into account the multigenerational needs of the household, such as more private access to a bathroom for a live-in grandparent
- Kitchens with gas ranges that are more suitable to Latino recipes that require cooking over an open flame
- Five-eighths-inch drywall for noise attenuation and durability
- Proximity to public transit
- Longer driveways that can accommodate the additional cars of a Latino household with more family members in the workplace.
“Builders need to be thinking imaginatively and creatively before the home is built,” Cisneros said. “Many of these things don’t cost a lot, and they can become a marketing asset.”
There are important differences between first-generation immigrants and those families that have been in the U.S. for two or more generations, Cisneros added.
“First-generation immigrants may be less aware of the complexity of the finance system. They may be ‘unbanked.’ They may have credit issues,” he said. “For these households, we need to pay special attention to concerns about financing issues.”
Home-buyer education and bilingual help at closing are particularly important in serving these first-generation buyers.
The current debate about immigration policy and the fate of 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the country is very important to the future of the nation and its Hispanic population, Cisneros said.
Cisneros commended President Bush for his courage in offering all three elements of a workable immigration reform package: border security; a guest worker program that allows those 12 million immigrants to legalize their status as workers; and a pathway to citizenship.
Such a three-pronged immigration policy would be hugely important in terms of homeownership and the housing market, because it would enable people who are in the shadows — and who haven’t established ties with financial institutions — to become legal participants in the economy.
“While it appears that all that may pass this year is some sort of border security, the reality is that over the long term, the legislation that would be most dynamic requires all three elements,” Cisneros said.
Hispanic immigrants in this country are exactly the kind of people this nation needs, he said. Regardless of their backgrounds, Hispanic families have a few important characteristics in common: a desire to work hard, raise children, pay taxes, attend church and build communities.
For more information, e-mail Blake Smith at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8583.