Skip to main content

Immigrants are driving the housing recovery

By John Feinblatt and Jason Marczak, Special to CNN
July 19, 2013 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
New Americans wave flags at a naturalization ceremony in Manhattan on July 2 in New York City.
New Americans wave flags at a naturalization ceremony in Manhattan on July 2 in New York City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Writers: The housing recovery fueled by immigrants moving in as U.S. born move out
  • They say immigrants' need for affordable housing revives local housing markets
  • Writers: They buy goods and services, revive neighborhoods, work crucial jobs
  • Writers: We need immigration reform, to help build a more dynamic economy and nation

Editor's note: John Feinblatt is the chief policy adviser to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Jason Marczak is the director of policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas.

(CNN) -- Nearly five years after the housing bubble burst, American homeowners are beginning to see signs of relief as housing markets are finally showing signs of recovery. An untold story of this recovery, however, is the extent to which it is fueled by immigration.

A new analysis of U.S. Census data by Americas Society/Council of the Americas and Partnership for a New American Economy shows that immigrants have collectively added $3.7 trillion to U.S. housing wealth. And over the last several years, as many families in cities and rural areas from the Sun Belt to Rust Belt have seen their largest personal asset -- the home they live in -- placed in jeopardy, the inflow of immigrants has been a lifeline for them.

Jason Marczak
Jason Marczak
John Feinblatt
John Feinblatt

Take Chicago. The number of U.S.-born Americans residing in Chicago and surrounding Cook County has declined by 900,000 since 1970. Fortunately, the arrival of nearly 600,000 immigrants over the same time period has offset most of that decline -- and most likely kept additional natives from leaving -- blunting what could have been a catastrophe for the local housing market.

Similar stories exist all around the country. The U.S. Census data show that in Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, the influx of immigrants between 2000 and 2010 added more than $25,000 to the value of the average home. In Maricopa County, Arizona, which is home to staunch immigration opponent Sheriff Joe Arpaio, immigration added $18,000 to local home prices over the period.

Immigrants are a boon for the housing market in three ways.

First, their demand for affordable housing renewed the local housing markets. This, coupled with increased demands for locally produced goods and services once they establish themselves, stimulates their neighborhood's economy.

Second, and relatedly, as immigrants stimulate economic life in affordable neighborhoods, they attract more U.S.-born people to those neighborhoods, further bolstering home values. For every 1,000 immigrants who move to a county, 250 U.S.-born people eventually follow, drawn by the new economic opportunities that have been created.

Capitalizing on the housing recovery
Housing bounces back
Housing starts out this week
Tale of two housing markets

Third, immigrants help stabilize neighborhoods that have gone into decline, helping these previously blighted neighborhoods become viable alternatives for middle- and working-class Americans. Importantly, because immigrants tend to gravitate to areas with cheaper housing costs, they create wealth in the housing market without contributing to the pricing out of the middle class from more desirable neighborhoods, especially in large metropolitan areas.

Immigrants and the housing market is just one chapter in the larger story of their role in helping our economy to grow.

In health care, for example, the en masse retirement of Baby Boomers creates increased demand for professionals ranging from physicians and surgeons to home health aides. Immigrants are critical for taking care of our elderly, and for filling the jobs needed to sustain our overall health care industry.

The same holds true in housing. Because immigrants move into areas where housing is cheaper and neighborhoods are more on the edge, they revitalize those neighborhoods. We've seen that across New York City, from Washington Heights in Northern Manhattan to Flushing and Corona in Queens to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

Encouraging the stability and growth of the U.S. housing market is a fundamental aspect of ensuring a solid economy. So is ensuring U.S. industries have access to a productive, diverse and flexible workforce with the right skills to grow and prosper. Immigration is essential to achieving both of these goals and is thus essential to the future of the United States.

With the future of immigration reform in the hands of the House of Representatives, this new research gives added momentum for why we need a bipartisan agreement that reflects many of the basic compromises of the Senate bill.

As a country we cannot afford to refuse to modernize and reform our immigration system. Turning away those who could help us build a stronger and more dynamic community and nation would be blind to our economic needs. Now is the time for immigration reform.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1947 GMT (0347 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 2156 GMT (0556 HKT)
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 2221 GMT (0621 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0217 GMT (1017 HKT)
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 2139 GMT (0539 HKT)
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT