Urban Land Institute: Immigrants’ Desire for Homeownership Will Shape Housing Market


A recent report from the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing, Home in America: Immigrants and Housing Demand, finds that the home choices of immigrants will have a strong impact on urban growth in the U.S. for decades to come, especially as an increasing amount of foreign-born residents look to buy homes in suburban communities.

The study delves into immigrants’ influence in urban growth patterns, especially those who have come to the U.S. since the Great Recession. “Immigrants have helped stabilize and strengthen the housing market throughout the recovery,” stated Stockton Williams, Terwilliger Center Executive Director. “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.”

Key Findings

  • Without growth of the foreign-population, regions with strong housing markets such as San Francisco would not have recovered as quickly following the recession; and markets that continue to struggle in the recession’s aftermath such as Buffalo would have experienced even weaker growth.
  • While immigrants represent a key source of demand for new housing, a substantial share of immigrant housing demand will be met through purchases of existing homes. Sellers of these homes – many of whom will be baby boomers seeking to downsize – will create a strong market for smaller units.
  • Urban areas experiencing significant immigrant population growth should explore how to best accommodate immigrants and leverage the positive effect they have on the housing industry and economy. Investments in housing, retail, recreational and cultural amenities, as well as social assistance and education programs can help forge a strong connection between immigrants, neighborhoods, and the greater community.

As the report makes clear, those who can provide the housing options immigrants seek will benefit from their buying activity; this ranges from homebuilders and agents to developers and even homeowners seeking to downsize and sell their homes. Furthermore, as immigrants are able to purchase the homes they want in their preferred areas, they will be able to create stable lives situating them and future generations for success.

The immigrant population’s housing demand represents a unique opportunity for the revitalization of the housing market. It is important for the housing ecosystem to recognize this prospect and assist these homebuyers in their buying processes. Housing discrimination and redlining—one instance being that Asian American homebuyers learn about 15 percent fewer available homes and are shown nearly 19 percent fewer units than whites, according to State of Asia America 2016—should be eradicated in order to help these populations to thrive.

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