Making homeownership a priority for Latino elected officials
Celebrating NAHREP familia, cultura, politics, and grassroots action
August 26, 2021
Qué onda mi gente?!
At NAHREP, we divide our time in terms of conferences. Familia gatherings at the National Convention & Housing Policy Summit and NAHREP at L’ATTITUDE are two annual milestones for the NAHREP Policy Department because they each mark the release of our reports, the State of Hispanic Homeownership Report and the State of Hispanic Wealth Report. But, I also think of them as phases. The time right after each conference before we start writing our next report is when most of the major changes and initiatives for the advocacy wing of our organization get developed.
Over the past 2 years, we’ve been working on standing up our grassroots operation: the NAHREP National Advocacy Committee (NAC). It has been our top priority to ensure that there is one person in each chapter that is squarely focused on advocacy-related work (our Government Affairs Directors) and that those individuals are properly trained, coached, and supported. With events opening up in person again, we hope that anyone who wants to be a part of our advocacy efforts can find a home at NAHREP.
One of the things that we plan to implement following this year’s NAHREP at L’ATTITUDE is new attention on our Latino Caucuses in state legislatures, especially in states with high Latino populations. NAHREP has a large footprint in 9 out of the top 10 states for Latino population, but we haven’t yet done much to strategically build relationships with their state Latino Caucuses.
The Strategy: Making homeownership a priority for Latino elected officials
If we are going to solve the housing inventory crisis, we must ensure that Latino Caucuses in state legislatures make homeownership a top 3 priority. The largest impact on housing production happens at the local and state level. These legislators must take on the issue of land-use and zoning, and see this issue as a Latino issue in order for us to be successful in our advocacy.
But what do we know about these state caucuses? My team took a look at the state legislatures in California, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Colorado this week. And here are the key takeaways:
- California has one of the largest and most organized Latino Caucuses. There are 29 members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, meaning that 24% or almost 1 in every 4 California legislators is Latino. THAT. IS. HUGE. And, while California has the worst housing shortage in the nation, housing production is nowhere near the top policy areas that the caucus champions. NAHREP has 24 chapters in California, who is with me and ready to take this on as our first challenge?
- Texas also has one of the largest and most organized Latino caucuses. The state has around 47 Latino legislative members, accounting for approximately 26% of the state legislature, which is more than 1 in 4. The Texas Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) has been around since the 1990s. Like California, they focus on public education, COVID Relief, healthcare, social justice, voting rights/redistricting – but not housing or homeownership.
- New Mexico has the largest Latino population rate in the country at 49.3%. The Latino caucus in New Mexico does not publish its membership list, but we imagine it’s quite large. Around 43.8% of New Mexico’s legislators are given the wealth building component of homeownership, housing should be a priority. While we don’t have chapters in New Mexico yet, we will!
- Arizona has around 20 Latino state legislators making up a little over 20%. The Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus is active on social media and focuses on border solutions, COVID-19, voting rights, education – but once again, not housing or homeownership.
- Nevada has a well-organized Latino Caucus that calls itself the Nevada Latinos Initiative. There are 11 members who represent 15% of the state legislature. They host a Latino Lobby Day annually and their website lists resources for Nevadans to utilize. However, housing and homeownership do not appear on their issues list or resource guides.
- Florida has about 22 Latino elected officials, accounting for almost 14% of the state legislature. However, we could not find any organized Latino or Hispanic caucus. If you know otherwise, please let us know!
- Colorado has the Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus which has 14 members and represents about 13% of the legislature. They note their priorities to be education, criminal justice, immigration, healthcare, housing, economic development, social justice, public safety, and voting rights; and, to advocate for the appointment of Latinos at all levels and branches of government. This is the only caucus that actually lists housing as one of their priorities! Is homeownership a part of their housing agenda though?
- Illinois has the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus, also known as the Illinois Latinx Caucus, with about 15 members accounting for around 9% of the state legislature. They list their priorities as protecting immigrant families with housing security, proper education, and greater access and representation. Notably, homeownership is missing from this priorities list.
- New York: New York has around 19 Latino legislators, accounting for nearly 9% of the state legislature. They have the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Caucus that focus on civil rights and immigrant rights. No Latino caucus specifically but more of a “people of color” caucus. There was previously a Latino Caucus in the New York State Senate that has been marked as inactive.
- New Jersey: New Jersey has about 10 Latino legislators who make up about 8% of the state legislature. While the New Jersey Legislative Latino Caucus doesn’t have a web presence, they do make statements to the press periodically.
This is our first pass at researching the Latino caucuses around the country, but we’d love to hear from you as well. If you have more information you’d like to share with us about the Latino legislators in your state, please do so. We are building our National Advocacy Committee from the ground up with the help of our members. Consider yourself a founding member!
Nos vemos pronto familia!
About Noerena Limón
Noerena Limón is NAHREP’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy and Industry Relations. Noerena heads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts on issues ranging from homeownership, housing inventory, credit access and immigration.
Prior to joining NAHREP, Noerena spent six years at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and served as a political appointee under President Obama in the White House Office of Political Affairs.