Second only to California, Texas hosts largest immigrant population in the United States. And in Dallas-Fort Worth alone, more than 1.2 million immigrants make their homes, hold jobs, attend schools, and participate in local communities. An integral part of the DFW economy, immigrants contributed $8.4 billion in taxes and over $25 billion in spending power in 2014 alone, according to a recent study.
But action of late by the Trump Administration, including discriminatory travel bans, ramped-up deportation raids, and even wall-related rhetoric are forcing many to reassess their places here, particularly when it comes to buying property.
An article published last month in The Guardian cited a 2013 study which put, in stark terms, the potential national impact anti-immigrant action could have on real estate.
[Dowell Myers, director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of California] estimated that in this decade, immigrants nationwide will account for 32.2% of the growth in all households, 35.7% of growth in homeowners and 26.4% of growth in renter households.
The study found that the volume of growth in foreign-born homeowners has increased each decade, rising from 0.8 million added immigrant homeowners in the United States during the period from 1980–1990 to 2.8 million in the current decade.
“It’s pretty clear what will happen,” warns Myers. “One way that people afford houses is by pooling incomes. So if you were to deport one of the three mortgage payers, that can destabilize the whole rest of the household. Immigrants are so interwoven into many communities that when you unravel one thread, you can destabilize it entirely.”
Could DFW experience that kind of destabilization? Possibly.
Ike Brannon, Ph.D. is a Senior Fellow with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a research institute based in Austin. He co-authored a study last March that analyzed the fiscal impact of immigrant populations on the state. One particularly poignant piece of data stood out: In 2010, the state of Texas collected $178 million in property taxes from unauthorized immigrants. That statistic ignores contributions from legal immigrants who, also according to the study, make up more than half of the immigrant population in Texas.
Immigrant contributions to property tax revenues are crucial to the Texas economy. What happens if an entire population drops out of home-buying market?
Immigrants Face Fear and Uncertainty
One real estate agent, who spoke to us anonymously, said fear among immigrants has already impacted home sales. Immigrant home owners and potential buyers alike suffer from fear and uncertainty.
“People are getting powers of attorney for their properties,” she said. “They’re getting ready, the ones that already have properties, to have someone here just in case they are deported.”
She feels the harshness of this new reality personally.
“It’s hard,” she said. “It’s hard to give them any advice — you just listen to them, but many are afraid. They just want to wait and see what’s going to happen. It’s a big investment, buying a house, and they don’t want to take that step unless they know that they’re going to be okay. And at this point, they don’t know that.”
While he also sees some hesitation among immigrant home buyers, Diego Giraldo, a mortgage loan officer at Texas Bank Mortgage, chooses to remain optimistic. “I’ve heard of some clients decide to put off [buying a home],” he said. “But I believe that’s only the fear of uncertainty. I feel hopeful that in a month or two, when things calm down, those holding off until there’s more certain information will come back to the market.”
Arizona: a Cautionary Tale
And if they don’t? Well, Arizona may give us some idea of what’s to come. When anti-immigration legislation SB 1070 and Legal Arizona Workers Act passed in 2010, the impact was sudden and fierce. Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the Cato Institute said, via The Guardian:
“Two hundred thousand people left because of those immigration laws at the same time as we had a housing collapse. So Phoenix suffered more than any other city except for Las Vegas,” Nowrasteh says. “We saw a huge increase in rental vacancies and a decline in home prices immediately after these laws were passed.”
It’s no stretch, then, to say that national anti-immigration policy (like, a giant wall) could greatly jeopardize DFW’s economic future. It’s only a matter of how long it will take.