AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – The nation's housing secretary says a booming Hispanic population will drive the future of America's residential real estate market and predicts that a major overhaul of federal immigration laws would create a further boon to home sales across the country.
Julian Castro, confirmed in July as U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, told The Associated Press that "for the work that HUD does, and the housing market in general, Hispanics truly are the future."
Castro, citing a National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals study from last year, said nearly half of first-time homebuyers nationwide would be Hispanic in six years. The study from the trade organization also said Hispanics are expected to account for 40 percent of the estimated 12 million net new households across the country within the next decade.
"The prosperity of the United States and the prosperity of the Hispanic community, as the fastest-growing community, are one and the same," Castro said in a phone interview. "The destinies are one and the same."
Rolf Pendall, of the Washington-based think tank Urban Institute, stressed that studies such as the one Castro cites include projections that will depend heavily on whether a tight credit market eases enough to help people secure mortgages.
"The potential is there if the economy is working and mortgage policy is working," he said.
A Mexican-American whose mother was a civil rights activist, Castro was mayor of San Antonio before President Barack Obama tapped him to join his Cabinet. Obama has called Castro a "rock star" and he's been mentioned as a possible 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee.
Castro declined to discuss his political future, joking, "I'm a recovering politician." Of his new appointment he said, "My hope is that it's meaningful to the Hispanic community and to Americans generally."
"Over the last few years of his administration, the president has done an excellent job of reaching out to the Hispanic community, and more than that, substantively doing great work in terms of investments in education, in housing, in transportation, fighting for immigration reform," Castro said.
But the White House has backed off on the immigration front lately.
Obama in June said that by the end of the summer, he'd announce what steps he would take to fix the nation's immigration system in the absence of major action from Congress. But earlier this month, Obama changed course, saying that a surge of immigrant children pouring into the U.S. had changed the politics surrounding the issue and would delay action until after midterm elections in November.
Castro said resolution on issue could bolster the U.S. housing market, pointing to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals study that estimates federal immigration law changes could add about 3 million homeowners and generate more than $500 billion in sales, income and spending into the housing economy.
“It's a significant contribution if we can get immigration reform done," Castro said.