by David Morrison

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals blamed more stringent underwriting standards and higher mortgage fees for driving down the numbers of Hispanics who own homes.

The group’s State of Hispanic Homeownership Report surveyed 100 leading Hispanic Realtors in the U.S. and asked them what most stands in the way of Hispanics’ abilities to buy their own homes. The Realtors ranked tight mortgage credit, housing affordability and down payments as the three leading barriers to Hispanic homeownership.

The group found that despite 54,000 new Hispanic homeowners in 2014, the rate of Hispanic home ownership dropped to its lowest level since 1999.

The organization said it would release the full report on March 30.

“The State of Hispanic Homeownership Report shows gains in employment, education and income for Latinos, representing the huge influence Latinos have, not only in the housing market, but on the U.S. economy as a whole,” Jason Madiedo, president of NAHREP, said. “Access to affordable mortgages for Latino home buyers would help sustain a healthy housing market and benefit a general economic recovery,” he added.

The organization also reported Hispanics formed 320,000 new households in 2014, which represented about 40% of all new households nationwide and that 38 million people in the U.S speak Spanish, but 60% of them also speak English “very well.”

In addition to Texas, California and Florida, Georgia (107,000), Arizona (96,000) and North Carolina (95,000) had large Hispanic population growth in 2014.

Finally, the Realtors expect 2015 to be a breakout year, with 65% of the agents surveyed forecasting a stronger year for Hispanic home buyers.