People living in areas with lower levels of proficiency in English have significantly lower rates of homeownership, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Urban Institute, which carried out the study, said they couldn’t be sure how or why limited English proficiency affects homeownership rates, but said their research shows it’s a barrier to entry, on top of other barriers.
“This finding suggests we might expand homeownership by better serving the LEP community,” the Institutes's researchers said.
The organization said that Spanish language speakers account for 62 percent of the LEP population. This tallies with previous studies by the Urban Institute, which have also shown lower homeownership rates within Hispanic households when compared to non-Hispanic households. Researchers have speculated in the past that a lack of proficiency in English could be providing a barrier that prevents some from buying a home.
The study found that overall, neighborhoods with a lower number of LEP residents had a median homeownership rate of 74 percent in 2016. However, those areas with a higher than average number of LEP residents had a homeownership rate of just 64 percent.
Some agencies have seemingly acknowledged that limited English proficiency could be an issue and are taking steps to address it. For example, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said last year it would add a preferred language question to its newly redesigned Uniform Residential Loan Application. With this, lenders and regulators can gather more data on the size of the potential LEP homeowners’ market.
“Our new findings suggest that the addition of a language variable on the loan application is a move in the right direction,” Urban Institute researchers said.