The feature article of the June 29 issue of BusinessWeek magazine includes one-page profiles of housing markets in seven cities; six because they look to be set for a vigorous, speedy recoveries (Omaha, Seattle, Saratoga Springs, Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Austin) and one, Merced, to serve as an example of how some places will be in the dumps for years to come.
Maybe I’ve been listening to the Derb’s sardonic cynicism too much recently, but the write-ups for Nashville and Merced seem worth looking at for how they demonstrate the invisibility of massive immigration from Mexico and Central America in the eyes of the major media. Invisible, that is, unless the issue is the electoral viability of the GOP, in which case it is actually inflated right alongside predictions of Republican demise unless the party actively courts it, election after election after election.
From the prognosis for Nashville:
Music City U.S.A. is also home to one of the largest Kurdish populations outside the Middle East. The wave of immigration started after the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. Since then, the Kurdish community has swelled to more than 8,000 people, adding to a foreign-born population that’s approaching 10% of the city’s population.
More immigrants are purchasing homes, making them an important factor in the housing recovery.
The immigrant population has been a stabilizing force in Nashville, where mosques and markets occupy a stretch of Nolensville Road south of downtown.
Toxic mortgages are less of an issue for Nashville’s Kurds. They are forbidden by their Muslim faith from paying interest on a loan. Many potential buyers in the community are instead turning to Habitat for Humanity. The housing charity offers interest-free loans that require borrowers to pay only the principal. In Nashville, Habitat built Providence Park, a subdivision with 138 homes, more than a third of them occupied by Kurds.
Who knew Habitat for Humanity not only subsidized aspiring homeowners in financial need but also those in need of compliance with Sharia law?
Immigration is not an unmitigated benefit, though. No group better demonstrates this than do… Brazilians. In Danbury.
Uh huh. Continuing:
An influx of immigrants can be a double-edged sword, however. Consider Danbury,
Conn. During the housing boom, Brazilians flocked to the town, helping to revive
the former hatmaking capital of the U.S. But many Brazilians in Danbury took out
subprime mortgages. Now, 212 borrowers are in default or foreclosure, according
to research firm RealtyTrac. That’s a lot in a city with roughly 25 home sales a
Given that Merced–which the BW article flatteringly refers to as “Ghost Town, USA”–is nearly half Hispanic, one-quarter foreign-born, and has a resident population whose members are about as likely to speak Spanish at home as they are to speak English, it’s reasonable to assume that in discussing the city’s housing market, the immigration angle would have been given a look.
Not a word, however. The effect of immigration on the housing market appears to be confined to Kurds in Tennessee and Brazilians in Connecticut.