Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Op-ed:Offer More Housing Options for Latinos

Patricia Lindo, the president of the National Hispanic Organization of Real Estate Associates (NHORA), a non-profit trade organization responds to Patch's article "Report Gives 'D' Grade for Affordable Housing for Latinos."

The Latino population, at nearly one quarter of the San Mateo County population, is the fastest growing demographic group in the county and is estimated to be the state’s largest population group within the next 30 years. The largest population group has specific housing and quality of life needs, and it is critical that those needs be addressed in long range planning and policy decisions.

While the county continues to offer jobs, it is currently far off track from offering enough diverse housing to accommodate the range of income levels living and working in San Mateo County. In fact, in a recently released study, “The Silicon Valley Latino Report Card,” developed by the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley, housing for Latinos received a “D” grade due to the housing quality, crowding, and affordability issues. Experts predict the lack of adequate housing will create major quality of life issues for the Latino population in San Mateo County as well as the Silicon Valley community at-large.

We need the support of our entire community – business, civic, labor and community leaders – in order to succeed in our mission to improve the quality of life for Latinos and sustain the prosperity of this county. This call to action is a win-win strategy for Latinos and non-Latinos alike. Together we need to:

Collaborate with public and private sector parties to develop or make available more affordable housing options
Advocate for housing policies, projects and opportunities that benefit the Latino community
Implement sustainable ownership measures, including financial and mortgage education for new homeowners
Last week at the Latino Bay Area Housing Report, held in Redwood City, a broad range of Bay Area housing leaders called on the Latino community and the county as a whole to take the steps necessary to help solve the housing problems. There is a huge opportunity for the greater community to join our efforts and to contribute the time and resources necessary to succeed in this effort. Education and awareness is key to mobilizing our supporters in every community. But, time is of the essence.

At the luncheon, we heard from housing experts about their minority group-focused sustainable housing programs and financial literacy education. A few of the speakers also mentioned opportunities that need serious consideration in San Mateo County, including the Baylands project in Brisbane, which includes several hundred flat and townhomes, and the Redwood City Saltworks project, which proposes up to 12,000 homes, 15% below market rate. Both projects offer considerable community and environmental benefits. It is critical for the Latino community to get involved in these projects and others and to advocate for housing product types, below market rate housing, and community benefits that benefit Latinos.

Change is possible if we act now. Commitment from our public and private sector is necessary to improve the fate of our Latino community and San Mateo County – but most importantly we need all community members to get involved. There are many ways to do so: sign up for an Engagement Circle, part of Phase II of the “Silicon Valley Latino Report Card”, www.hfsv.org; join NHORA to learn more about opportunities specifically in San Mateo County; join the Housing Leadership Council; and, go to city websites to learn about specific projects and how to participate, including the City of Redwood City, Brisbane and other cities on the Peninsula.

NHORA’s next forum will focus on education and will be held in September. Like our housing forum the next forum will be a call to action for Latinos and the greater community. I hope you will join us.

Do you believe Latinos have enough affordable housing options? Tell us in the comments.

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