Don't let the sun set on you here, latino
Georgia Law Chills Latino Home-Buying Market
A measure meant to deny jobs and services to illegal immigrants has even legal residents rethinking their future in the state.
By Jenny Jarvie, Times Staff Writer
June 19, 2006
ATLANTA — Two months ago, all Alina Arguello had to do to find Latino home buyers was put up a sign and answer her phone.
But ever since Georgia passed one of the most stringent and far-reaching immigration laws in the nation, the number of Latino buyers who call the Re/Max agent's home office in suburban Atlanta has dwindled from about 10 to two a day.
"We're seeing a drastic drop," she said. "There's just a tremendous amount of people who want homes, but are not calling." Many real estate agents and mortgage providers who cater to Spanish-speaking immigrants across Georgia say that the flourishing Latino home buying market has faltered since April, when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act.
Almost immediately, Latino home buyers pulled out of contracts. Some who had already bought, put their homes on the market. And many prospective buyers stopped searching for homes.
The law will require companies with state contracts to verify employees' immigration status, penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, curtail many government benefits to illegal immigrants and require that jailers check the immigration status of anyone who is charged with a felony or driving under the influence.
"For Latinos, buying a home is the American dream, but, you know, at this time they are hesitant to accomplish that dream," said Eliezer Velez, who provides housing advice for immigrants through Atlanta's Latin American Assn.
The recent caution among Latino home buyers has caught many real estate professionals off guard.
In recent years, the Latino housing market has become one of the most dynamic and robust sectors of the ailing industry. A growing number of lenders now fund home loans with Individual Tax Identification Numbers, introduced by the U.S. Treasury a decade ago to collect taxes from illegal workers. The down payment required for these loans has dropped from about 10% to 3% in the last few years.
In Georgia — home to the second-fastest growing Latino population in the nation — 37% of Latinos are homeowners, according to the 2000 census. The number of homes purchased by Latinos in metro Atlanta jumped from about 3,500 in 1999 to 8,500 in 2004, according to data
State Sen. Chip Rogers, a Republican who represents some of Atlanta's northern suburbs and who sponsored the legislation, said he was "very satisfied" that the law seemed to be prompting some illegal immigrants to consider leaving Georgia.
"If someone is here illegally," he said, "buying a house would probably not be a wise investment." But not all of the Latino immigrants who are uncertain about investing in Georgia property are illegal.
"A lot of people are connected one way or another to the undocumented," said Mata, who founded HomeBanc en Español in 2002. "They are saying: What will happen to my wife, my husband, my mother?"
Dioris Medina, a Re/Max agent in Tucker, has two clients who are legal immigrants who planned to relocate from Virginia to Georgia. They have already signed their contract, but are having second thoughts about whether they would feel welcome in Georgia.
Acosta's organization, which has 17,000 members, recently projected that from 2002 to 2012, 40% of first-time home buyers in the U.S. will be Latino.
If the Latino housing market were to falter, Acosta warned, it would affect every segment of the housing industry. Realtors who do not set out to cater to Latinos would suffer if fewer people were looking for houses.
"Your client can't buy a $300,000 house if he can't sell his $150,000 house," he pointed out.
The GOP has invested much of their strategy in depicting Latinos as parasites stealing from the economy, When they start to lose that money, they might not be so eager to check on immigration status.
Short term gain for long term cost.
posted by Steve @ 7:09:00 AM