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business successAt the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) in September, the organization’s co-founder, Gary Acosta, spoke passionately about the group’s mission to raise Hispanic homeownership to over 50 percent.

Anyone witnessing the resolve and commitment of the 2,000 convention attendees could envision the goal being reached. These were industry professionals putting aside their competitive differences and standing united behind a common objective. It was inspiring and impactful to hear their ideas and experience their enthusiasm.

So what would it take to reach 50 percent?

Overall Gains
The Hispanic homeownership rate currently stands at about 45 percent, down significantly from a four-year run (2005 – 2008) above 49. The peak, however, was unsustainable, built on an artificial foundation of dangerous credit products. Too many of these owners, like millions of others, had purchased homes they simply couldn’t afford. After the housing crisis, the Hispanic homeownership rate settled into the 45 – 46 percent range, where it has stayed for the past four years.

During the same post-crisis timeframe, though, the raw number of Hispanic households owning homes has risen each year. From the 6.1 million of 2010, the figure grew to 6.8 million, higher than ever before, to start 2015.

So although the homeownership rate dropped, and has remained flat, more and more Hispanic families are enjoying the benefits of owning their home. That’s encouraging.

Solid Base
Even more encouraging is the foundation upon which that growth is built. The base is fortified not with risky loans, but with increased education, improving job prospects, growing entrepreneurship and gains in purchasing power—the same fundamentals that help all homebuyers.

What’s more, the primary roadblock to Hispanic homeownership is also common to other buyers: overly tight mortgage lending standards.

Fortunately, positive signs have emerged on that front. Moves made earlier this year to increase credit accessibility through responsible lending standards have helped the housing recovery gain valuable momentum heading into 2016. Small but meaningful actions like the FHA’s 0.5 percent reduction of mortgage insurance premiums and the first-time buyer down-payment adjustments by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have enabled credit-worthy families to secure loans, enter the market and pursue the dream of homeownership.

Brighter Outlook
These changes and other factors are having a significant impact. Through August, NAR reported a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.3 million existing-home sales, a 6.2 percent gain from a year earlier. In markets across the country, prices are rising, equity is building and distressed properties are diminishing.

Challenges absolutely still exist, but 2015 is a strong year for housing.

Energized GroupThe high-energy NAHREP convention crowd certainly reflected the improving times. Halls and meeting rooms throughout the Chicago Hilton buzzed with conversations about paving the way to homeownership for those who want it—and doing so in a manner that avoids the pitfalls of a decade ago.

Within that framework, the message from Gary and other NAHREP leaders was clear. In calling for consistent access to reasonable mortgages, and public policy that promotes homeownership, they were advocating that people with steady jobs, promising futures and a hunger to own a home should have the opportunity to do so.

That’s an easy concept to support—in every way possible.

Geoff Lewis is president of RE/MAX LLC.

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