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Big Gap In Latino Home Ownership: New Study

Image: For-sale sign at a home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington
A U.S. flag decorates a for-sale sign at a home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington in this August 21, 2012 file photo. JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters, file

Bienvenido a mi casa - welcome to my home. Those are cherished words for the many Latinos who hope that their American Dream will include buying their own house. Yet there is a big gap between the growing number of Hispanic households and their ability to purchase their own home, a new study finds.

Nearly four million Latinos would like to be home owners in the next five years, but only 1.5 million can afford it, according to a new study by The Demand Institute, a non-profit think tank operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen. The study found a gap of 2.5 million Latinos who struggle to be able to achieve home ownership; less than one-in-five who would like to purchase a home have the access and the means to do so.

Hispanics will account for nearly four out of 10 new households between now and 2020, more than any other racial or ethnic group.

"The gap is an opportunity for business and policy makers to help these households come up with new models on how we finance housing and find ways to help Latinos to be able to afford to buy homes," said Louise Keely, president of The Demand Institute, who spoke to NBC News about the report.

"Hispanics were hit especially hard by the housing crisis," Keely said, "partly because of geographics, since most homeowners were concentrated in states that were most affected like California and Arizona and because they came from a lower baseline median income level."

Latino home ownership rates peaked at 50 percent in 2007, but even years after the housing bust it stands at 44 percent, according to the US Census. So while Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic, tight lending standards, high housing costs and stagnant wages continue to keep Latinos from buying homes, the report found.

The multi-year study includes an on-line survey of 1,000 Latino heads of households in 2013. More than 52 percent of those polled wanted to own a home and thought it was a good investment, but 31 percent said the lack of savings was the main barrier, followed by low income and access to credit.

Those Latinos who can buy a home are leaving the city to find more affordable housing.

"We found that a quarter of those surveyed would like to move further from the city, a trend we've seen over the last decade and one likely to continue," said Ms. Keely.

While the majority of Hispanics live in urban areas, the report found that more Hispanics are moving to the suburbs for more space, better schools and cheaper homes where they can raise their families.

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