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Immigrants are set to have a starring role in homeownership in the years ahead, with a new report touting their immense impact on community development—but also cautioning growth will depend on the trajectory of U.S. immigration policy.

Home in America: Immigrants and Housing Demand, a report by the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing, assesses how the immigrants who have entered the U.S. in the years since the recession have shaped urban areas, including Charlotte, N.C., and San Francisco, Calif. Immigrants, like most U.S.-born Americans, have a desire for single-family homeownership, according to the report.

“Immigrants have helped stabilize and strengthen the housing market throughout the recovery,” says Stockton Williams, executive director of the Terwilliger Center.

“Immigrants’ housing purchasing power and preferences are significant economic assets for metropolitan regions across the country. This suggests the potential for much more growth attributable to foreign-born residents in the years ahead.”

San Francisco, especially, can attribute much of its growth since the housing crash to an influx of immigrants.

Immigrants the country over, however, are hoping to settle down in the suburbs, whether buying or renting a home. Much of that demand will be for existing homes, unloaded by baby boomers who are downsizing—which, in turn, will up their demand for homes with less square footage. The report defined suburb through five categories: “economically challenged,” or one with lacking population growth and lower home values; “stable middle-income,” or one with a range of home values; “established high-end,” or one in proximity to employment and high home values; “greenfield lifestyle,” or one in proximity to the edge of metropolitan areas; and “greenfield value,” or one in proximity to the edge of metropolitan areas but more affordable than greenfield lifestyle areas.

Immigrants in the suburbs of San Francisco, for instance, are dispersed among the categories, but the majority are in economically challenged areas.

Still, the path immigrants take toward becoming homeowners will undoubtedly be influenced by the new administration’s immigration policy, which could alter not only their course, but also the course of homeownership in general, according to the report.

“If recent shifts in immigration flows continue, an increase in higher-income immigrants—including rising numbers from China and India—could accelerate the demand for homeownership among the foreign-born population,” the report states. “Without sustained immigration, the housing market could weaken and in many markets the impact could be dramatic.”

Source: Urban Land Institute (ULI)

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