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New Neighborhoods Lure Hispanics

Homeownership Mounts

Hispanic Home Ownership On The Rise In S. Florida

Cuban Americans Lead Other Hispanics In Home Ownership

New Neighborhoods Lure Hispanics

By Walter Pacheco

April 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002
El Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.




Hispanic homeowners are filling up more vacant land in southeast Orlando as they search for neighborhoods that give them more for their money.

The unmapped and barren land shouldering Lee Vista Drive was home to a few clumps of forest and miscellaneous lakes.

But now, a string of single-family housing developments have taken root and caught the eyes of Hispanics, such as Lily Acerra.

Acerra came from Puerto Rico a few years ago and settled in the predominantly Hispanic community of Engelwood, in south Orlando.

After finding a better job as a dental assistant, saving some money and securing a home loan, she was ready to move out.

Hispanics, in fact, are the most optimistic among various groups about purchasing a home in the next three years, according to a 2001 survey by Fannie Mae, a national mortgage broker.

The survey concluded that despite a weakened economy and a low median income of $30,700, about 64 percent of Hispanics foresaw a bright future.

The national median income is $49,497. Median means half of the population earn more than $49,497 and half earn less.

"I was renting a home for about $900 a month and it wasn't even mine," she said of her small two-bedroom 1980s home off La Costa Drive in south Orlando.

Now Acerra is building her own home for about $130,000 off Lee Vista Drive in the partially developed Vista Lakes subdivision in southeast Orlando.

The average new home in Orlando sells for considerably more -- about$53,800 above the new homes in Lee Vista Lakes.

She believes the change is well worth it.

"Look at the house . . . it's pretty big and with a yard. I could never afford anything like this near downtown Orlando," said Acerra, who particularly enjoys the "peace" of her new neighborhood, compared with city congestion.

Despite the proximity to Orlando International Airport, the development escaped the noise from the flight patterns.

Acerra's one-story home in the Amherst development is still under construction, but across the street, a few two-story homes have already been built.

Abigail Mercédez and her husband moved into the neighborhood of more than 50 homes.

"It was a great place to come live. We have a brand new neighborhood and a few Hispanic neighbors, but I see more are moving in," said Mercédez. "We even have our daughter enrolled in a school just down the street."

Odyssee Middle School, off Lee Vista Drive, was built only eight months ago, and its Hispanic student population already tops 35 percent, reflecting the area's growth.

School officials predict more will come at the start of the new school year in August.

However, many of the Hispanic students are filtering in from the surrounding areas such as South Semoran Boulevard, which has a concentration of Hispanic families.

"It's really refreshing to see Hispanics doing better for themselves," said Vivian Ortega who plans to move into her new home next month.

"Here we have a brand new community and it's filled with so many possibilities for our families," Ortega said.

Homeownership Mounts Among Hispanic Residents

By Jack Snyder

April 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

With Hispanic homeownership having surged nationwide in the 1990s, a majority of Florida's and Central Florida's burgeoning Hispanic populations are now homeowners.

Nationally, Puerto Ricans are more likely to rent than own -- high housing-costs in places such as New York are one reason -- but that's not the case locally, according to U.S. Census data released today.

The homeownership edge for Hispanics holds true in metropolitan Orlando and in all six Central Florida counties, ranging from a low of 51 percent in Orange County to a high of 68 percent in Volusia County.

Statewide, 56 percent of all Hispanic households are homeowners. Cubans are first at 63 percent, followed by Puerto Ricans, 56 percent; Colombians, 54 percent; and Mexicans, 43 percent.

Those percentages are almost identical in metropolitan Orlando -- Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties -- where nearly 56 percent of all Puerto Rican households are homeowners. Nearly 63 percent of all Cuban households own their dwelling, compared with 51 percent of all Colombians.

Mexican households, both locally and statewide, tend to rent rather than own: More than 57 percent of the households in the metro area are renters. Mexicans also tended to be renters in Brevard and Volusia counties, though by narrower margins.

Edgardo Arvelo, a sales agent with Regent International Inc. in Kissimmee, does about 90 percent of his business with Hispanic buyers. Puerto Ricans tend to favor housing markets in south Orange County and in the Kissimmee area, he said. Venezuelans tend to go for higher-priced homes in west Orange County.

More-flexible lending practices and a record-setting economic expansion in the 1990s helped boost Hispanics' homeownership rate nationwide to a new high --though it still lags the overall U.S. average.

The Hispanic rate grew from 42 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2000. Overall, 66 percent of all American homes were inhabited by homeowners in 2000, up from 64 percent a decade earlier.

"There's no question there's a substantial increase in homeownership [among Hispanics], but a very small base," said Roberto Suro, director of the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center research group.

"Hispanic" is considered an ethnicity, not a race. People of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. Still, by way of comparison, 46 percent of homes headed by blacks in 2000 were owned, along with 53 percent of Asian homes and 72 percent of white homes.

Differences in homeownership among Hispanic groups is because of where these different groups settle -- and how long ago they arrived.

Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans are the three largest Hispanic groups in the United States. The majority of Cubans live in Florida, where housing prices and the cost of living are lower than in New York, which has a large Puerto Rican population.

Cubans, as a group, tend to be older, better educated and better paid -- characteristics that lend themselves to homeownership.

Hispanic Home Ownership On The Rise In S. Florida

By Victor Greto

April 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

The American dream of owning your own home has become as multicultural as the rest of society over the past decade.

According to newly released 2000 census figures, Hispanic homeownership overall has risen, led by Cuban-Americans.

The trend is particularly apparent in Broward County, where more than three of every four Cuban-American households own the homes they live in.

That's higher than the percentage of non-Hispanic households -- 70.6 -- that are owner occupied, the only county in South Florida with this distinction.

Three of every five Puerto Rican and Colombian-American households, the next two largest Hispanic groups, own the Broward homes they live in.

In the rest of South Florida, the breakdown is:

>In Miami-Dade County, Cuban-American households are virtually tied with non-Hispanic households in homeownership, at 61 percent.

>For its next two largest Hispanic groups, one of every two 2 Puerto Rican and Colombian-American households are owner-occupied.

>In Palm Beach County, 70.3 percent of Cuban-American households are owner-occupied, about 6 percentage points lower than non-Hispanic households.

The county's next largest Hispanic group, Puerto Ricans, own 57 percent of their homes, while Mexican-Americans own 44 percent.

Since 1990, Hispanic household ownership increased by 8 percentage points in Broward County, by 7 percentage points in Miami-Dade, and 4 percentage points in Palm Beach County.

Nationally, the Hispanic rate grew from 42 percent in 1990 to 46 percent, well below the overall figure of 66 percent of all American homes that were owned in 2000, up from 64 percent a decade earlier.

Mirtha deRojas Wincele bought her first American house in Miami Beach in 1970, having moved from Cuba in 1962.

She slowly migrated northwest over the years, moving to Miami Lakes in 1982, then to Weston in 1992, a couple of months before Hurricane Andrew hit.

A family tradition

For Wincele, owning a home is as much a family tradition as it is a reflection of the American dream.

Her father owned a home, and she and her husband owned a home in Cuba. It just makes sense, she said. You build equity, and you're investing in something that will be yours.

Besides, she said, "Everyone wants a house with a pool and a dog. When you have a dog, you can't rent."

Both Broward County Senior Planner Bill Leonard, and Dick Ogburn, the principal planner of South Florida Regional Planning Council, said there's too little data to explain the numbers properly.

But they have a couple of educated guesses.

"For a long time we've been seeing significant Hispanic movement into Broward," said Leonard, especially southwest Broward, including Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Cooper City and Weston.

Much of this was propelled by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In a statistical breakdown of those cities, Cuban-American homeownership is more than 80 percent.

Aside from the movement into Broward, Ogburn said that "of all of the Hispanic groups, the Cubans have been here the longest. People who have been here long enough and in very large numbers settle in, and are able to afford a middle-class lifestyle when they're ready to move."

Many of these homeowners, Ogburn said, are probably second and third generation, and "having the base community of Cubans in Miami-Dade County provides a support network."

Jorge Avellana has owned his Lake Worth home for 23 years.

As deputy director of Hispanic Human Resources in Palm Beach, a nonprofit organization, he helps first-time homebuyers obtain financial assistance.

Sense of belonging

Homeownership, he said, has always been part of his life."It makes you feel like you're part of that community," Avellana said.

Though he still longs for his family home in Havana, he has created his own family home tradition in Lake Worth.

His two daughters still live in the home, even though one is an engineer and the other is about to graduate with a teaching degree.

"It's a Cuban curse," he said of his daughters remaining in the family home.

"They basically have the same feeling [for this home] that I have about my home in Cuba. The patriarch there built it for his family. This is an extension of that environment."

Cuban Americans Lead Other Hispanics In Home Ownership


April 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Cuban Americans are more likely to own their homes than other Hispanics across the United States, a trend made concrete -- and stucco -- in the South Florida subdivisions where Cubans often own homes at rates that exceed those of the general population, U.S. Census figures released today show.

In Broward County, Cuban Americans have the highest rate of homeownership -- 77 percent -- of any ethnic group in South Florida except white non-Hispanic homeowners in Palm Beach County.

The rising rates of Cuban and overall Hispanic homeownership in Florida, now at 63 and 56 percent, are also higher than they are nationwide, even as Hispanic ownership increased across the country. The Cuban homeownership rate nationally is 58 percent, compared to 46 percent for all Hispanics, according to the new figures, the first from the 2000 Census to detail Hispanic homeownership.

''It's the story of every immigrant group in America. Once you make it and once the family starts to have children and all that, your economic situation improves and you move out,'' said Guarione Diaz, president of the Cuban American National Council, a social services agency. ``All the newcomers stay here.''

For Diaz and the overwhelming majority of Cubans, ''here'' is Miami-Dade County, the entry point for Cuban refugees for more than 40 years, which still has more than 10 times the number of Cuban households Broward does.

In relatively affluent parts of Miami-Dade, from Miami Beach to Coral Gables to Kendall, Cuban homeownership rates often increased faster than those of other groups and the county as a whole over the past decade, the Census figures show.

But in struggling Miami and Hialeah, historical first stops for new Cuban immigrants and home to more than 40 percent of the county's Cuban households, the ownership rate rose more slowly, from 36 to 40 percent and from 51 to 52 percent, respectively. In the Little Havana neighborhood, the rate is just 33 percent, compared to 61 percent countywide.

Along with a median age of 54 for Cubans in Little Havana -- substantially older than other Hispanic groups moving to the neighborhood -- the data suggest an increasing disparity between an aging Cuban population to the east and a younger generation, often children of immigrants, helping settle the western suburbs.

The median age for Cubans in Broward is 37, compared with 44 in Miami-Dade.

Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, said an established infrastructure of Cuban and Hispanic banks and mortgage companies ``nurtures this kind of upward mobility.''

Black ownership rates are much lower, 49 percent in Miami-Dade and 53 percent in Broward. The white non-Hispanic rate in Miami-Dade is higher than the Cubans, at 70 percent, and in Broward just below the Cubans, at 76 percent.

''It points to the continuation of the Cuban success story,'' said Florida International University political science professor Dario Moreno. ``What's driving this is the search for the American dream.''

For some, the dream fulfilled includes the carefully landscaped subdivisions of Miramar, Pembroke Pines and Weston, all of which saw substantial increases in Cuban homeownership -- mirroring a surge among Hispanics in general in Southwest Broward that is not paralleled in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood.

''Since I got married, my goal was to live in Pembroke Pines,'' said Mario Morales, 34, father of two and a resident of the Encantada development. ``Everybody wants to live in Pembroke Pines.''


Relative quiet, good schools, new houses, general tidiness and -- by comparison with Miami-Dade -- tame traffic are among the practical advantages Morales and so many others cite. Another is space: Big homes with open layouts, often at lower prices.

''They want the room, they want to be comfortable,'' said Moreno, of FIU. ``Many of these people grew up in very small homes in the east.''

Morales was 9 when his family first came to the United States, settling initially in Westchester, then, when he first was married, in Hialeah.

Now he is manager of the El Dorado Furniture store that opened last summer at Pines Boulevard and Flamingo Road in Pembroke Pines, a massive operation tailored to appoint the expansive family rooms of the stucco subdivisions still rising around Interstate 75.

''There are houses to fill,'' Morales said. ``It's not over yet.''

The westward rush is not the only trend among Cuban homeowners. There have been substantial increases in established coastal cities from Hallandale Beach south.

Hallandale, long defined as a retiree haven for the Northeastern working class, saw nearly a tripling of Cuban households between 1990 and 2000, 68 percent of which are now owner-occupied. Across the county line, in Miami Beach, Cuban ownership increased far more than the overall rate in the tourist town.

Rafael Rosado, 68, and his wife bought their condo at La Costa on Collins Avenue in 2000, and quickly found that many of their new neighbors were South Americans who spent only a few weeks a year in Miami Beach, or snowbirds only in town for the winter.

Rosado said he also encounters plenty of other Cubans. ''It's 75 percent Spanish,'' he said.

After 37 years working as a builder and electrician on the mainland, Rosado said the La Costa home is a reward -- that he has friends, fellow exiles, who also moved across the bay to enjoy their retirement years.

''I like the beach,'' said Rosado, walking his Yorkshire Terrier, Shakira, on a recent breezy evening. ``When you get up in the morning and look out the window it's beautiful.''

While Cubans clearly have established themselves in South Florida, their numbers are growing more slowly than other Hispanics. When the census was taken two years ago, Cubans were only a slim majority of Hispanics in Miami-Dade.


Moreno said many newcomers -- Nicaraguans, Colombians, Venezuelans -- fled troubled countries to seek safety and stability in Florida, a pursuit shared with Cubans.

Moreno said rising homeownership for Hispanics in general may indirectly foretell what he calls the development of ``a kind of South Florida Hispanic identity, which is not just Cuban.''

There is already considerable intermarriage among groups, blurring ethnic lines the Census uses to define households.

Sandra Vazquez, 28, of Miramar, is Cuban. Her husband, Pete, is Puerto Rican. They have owned a home east of University Drive since 1995 that they share with their daughters, Yasmin, 8, and Cristina, 4.

The Vazquezes regard Miami-Dade as a place to avoid. ''I don't even like to go there,'' Sandra Vazquez said. ``The traffic!''

What the Census numbers do not reveal is how each wave of Cubans fared as homeowners, from the earliest refugees fleeing Castro, to those of the Mariel boatlift in 1980 to the rafters of the past decade.

Suchlicki, of UM, said anecdotal evidence suggests that the rafters, who arrived perhaps most desperately, still are making their way, while some children of immigrants from the 1960s are selecting lots in Pembroke Pines.

''Owning property is pride, and it's part of the cultural tradition of the [Cuban] people,'' Suchlicki said. ``The more recent arrivals, they have not had enough time to accumulate anything.''

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