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Low Immigration and the Housing Crisis

Another note on immigration and the economy: Fortune reported yesterday that low immigration levels are partly to blame for the high number of homes sitting vacant. As fewer immigrants move to the United States, fewer are buying and renting homes here, according to an Oct. 6 IHS Global Insight analysis of census data. Although high rates of foreclosure led many people to leave their homes, most were forced to move into other housing units, leaving vacancy numbers roughly the same, IHS argues. But would-be immigrants staying in their native countries slows growth in the number of new households, thereby increasing vacancies, since the number of households headed by non-natives under the age of 35 declined in 2009 by 338,000.

At the core of the problem is the economy, which has few jobs to attract immigrants to the U.S. or help young people move out of their parents’ homes. This is applicable to legal and illegal immigration, both of which have dropped as the number of jobs remains low. For those already here, the recession has been especially hard on immigrants, and foreign-born men in particular, as industries such as construction shrink.

As Annie Lowrey has reported, low housing numbers means lower revenues for city governments. Cities expect revenue to fall by 1.8 percent this year, which will mean major cuts for services such as education, police and roads.

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