How the Latino Vote Will Shape Future Housing Policy

A growing population of active voters has made Latinos a force to be reckoned with.

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Members of Promise Arizona in Action volunteers cheer as they as they leave their headquarters to go canvass a neighborhood for voter registration Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Phoenix.
Members of Promise Arizona in Action volunteers cheer as they as they leave their headquarters to go canvass a neighborhood for voter registration Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Phoenix.

A "Modern Family" coalition of single women, African-Americans, and progressive young voters who are passionate about hot-button social issues helped propel President Barack Obama to a second term this election. But it was the commanding Hispanic vote—Obama won 71 percent of Latino voters—that truly powered the president's successful run for re-election.

[READ: 5 Housing Issues Hanging in the Balance Going Into Obama's 2nd Term]

So what helped drive the Latino turnout in key swing states such as Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida? While a lot can be credited to anti-immigration stances taken by some GOP candidates in the primaries, the struggling housing market in key states also had an impact: The same swing states (Nevada, Arizona, and Florida) that turned out high Latino votes were also the hardest hit in the housing crisis. Moreover, 28 percent of Latino homeowners surveyed earlier this year were underwater, compared to only 14 percent of the general population.

That might have made a big difference when it came to looking at the differing approaches of the Obama and Romney campaigns. While the Obama administration and congressional Democrats crafted legislation and campaigned on broad refinance bills aimed at helping those same underwater borrowers, Mitt Romney took a more hands-off, market clearing approach, infamously telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal to "Let it [housing market] run its course and hit bottom."

The growing rift between Latinos and the GOP could become increasingly important in future elections, as well as in setting national policy. Going forward, it only makes sense for lawmakers to closely consider the Hispanic community's views and values, especially when it comes to homeownership.

[READ: Middle Class Can't Afford Homes in Nearly Half of Major Metro Areas]

According to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, here are some key findings that could strongly influence policy when government addresses future housing issues:

  • Almost 2 in 3 Latino renters aspire to be homeowners.
  • Latinos filled 1.4 million or 60 percent of the 2.3 million jobs added to the economy in 2011, and are expected to account for 40 percent of the estimated 12 million new households over the next 10 years. Their collective purchasing power is expected to jump 50 percent by 2016.
  • Hispanic homeownership grew by 288,000 units in the third quarter of 2011, accounting for more than half the total growth in owner-occupant homeownership in the United States.
  • By 2020, 40 percent of all new homebuyers will be Hispanic.
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    Hispanics are mobile and willing to relocate where employment is available. Hispanics alone drove the population growth in major cities such as Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Atlanta, and comprised the greatest component of population increases in San Antonio, Fort Worth, and El Paso, Texas, along with Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina.

    The message is clear. Homeownership is more important and more attainable than ever for Hispanics. And the opportunity for increased homeownership among Latinos is enormous. As of 2010, the homeownership rate among the Latino community was just 47.5 percent, compared with almost 70 percent for non-Hispanics. With rising influencers such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, it's only logical that future policies will accommodate this tectonic shift in the demographics of the country.

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    • Jason R. Gold is the Progressive Policy Institute's "Rethinking U.S. Housing Policy Project" and senior fellow for financial services policy. Keep up with his work at PPI here.