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Opinion: Promoting homeownership among Latinos through workforce representation

Creating a diverse workforce that represents today’s homebuyers is more than just good business strategy—it’s a moral obligation for the housing industry.

The demographics of first-time homebuyers in this country are changing, and Latinos play an increasingly important role. New household formation is a precursor to purchasing, and in 2023 alone, Latinos added 450,000 new households. That same year, the Hispanic homeownership rate reached 49.5%, with 377,000 Hispanic homeowner households. Looking ahead, U.S. Census data projects that more than one in four Americans will be Latino by 2060, and the Urban Institute expects Latinos to drive 70% of the growth in new homeownership between 2020 and 2040.

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) estimates that there are 8.3 million Latinos under the age of 45 in the United States who are ready to obtain a mortgage and who are not yet homeowners. We need to do more to help these families achieve their American dream, and we can start by working to close a significant gap in representation in the industry.

To best serve these aspiring homeowners, we must look beyond language barriers to recognize and embrace the multicultural backgrounds and values ​​of today’s Latino (and all minority) communities. They are not a homogenous group (for example, while Miami’s Cuban community shares a common language with Dallas’ Mexican community, each culture is unique and shaped by its rich history) and we, as an industry, must be intentional about how we understand and support their journeys.

Our mortgage and real estate professionals must understand and authentically represent the diverse perspectives and cultural backgrounds of our clients. This involves a deep understanding of the cultural nuances and financial behaviors of different communities.

Mortgage and real estate professionals who come from the communities they serve build trust, peace of mind, and confidence among homebuyers, which is crucial to supporting their path to homeownership. Latino homebuyers need to feel that their best interests are represented by professionals who understand their unique needs. Companies with diverse teams in their organizations excel at serving these communities.

Nearly 64% of the nation’s loan officers are white, while only 15% are Hispanic or Latino, highlighting a gap that persists among professionals of color in the mortgage sector. To address this, the housing industry must come together in a determined way to focus on community-oriented hiring initiatives. We need to attract a workforce representative of other industries where Latinos may be more prevalent, and we must offer additional training and mentoring programs to prepare new mortgage professionals for success.

We must establish programs that foster a diverse talent pipeline from universities and extend them to community colleges and high schools, where we can incentivize students with programs that support their pursuit of relevant degrees. Additionally, fostering affinity groups in the workplace allows diverse communities to thrive and contribute, while allowing us to better understand the unique needs of diverse homebuyers through shared knowledge and experiences. By expanding development initiatives, we can elevate diverse talent into leadership positions, creating a ripple effect that enriches the diversity of our talent pools across our organizations.

Importantly, support for diversity must start at the top, with a commitment to fostering diverse teams that reflect the communities they serve. We are making progress, but there is more to do. Each year, NAHREP honors the best-performing Latino real estate professionals in the country with the Top 250 Real Estate and Top 250 Mortgage Originator awards. At loanDepot, for example, 42% of our loan originators in the market are Latino, which was achieved through years of intentional recruitment and retention initiatives.

As Gary Acosta, co-founder and CEO of NAHREP, often points out, our nation’s economic prosperity is closely tied to our ability to facilitate homeownership opportunities for all Americans, regardless of background. By prioritizing inclusion and representation, we can better serve the needs of Latino families while working to ensure that everyone in this country has equal access to homeownership opportunities. It’s time for the industry to come together to prioritize a workforce that reflects our nation’s rich diversity.

Jesus Cruz is Vice President of Community Lending at loanDepot.

Nora Aguirre is president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the HousingWire editorial department and its owners.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: (email protected)