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RISE IN HOMEOWNERSHIP GOOD NEWS FOR ENTIRE STATE

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, April 28, 2002 Sunday

The remarkable rise in homeownership among two ethnic minority groups in Wisconsin - Hmong and American Indians - is worth applauding. Not only is it an accomplishment for the new homeowners, it is a benefit for the whole state. According to Census data, 47.5 percent of Indian households were homeowners in 2000, up from 42.9 percent in 1990. That is a sizable increase. But the homeownership increase among Hmong households is truly astounding: It soared to 48 percent from 10 percent.

The statewide average increase in homeownership was 1 percentage point.

The increase indicates two important trends that are good for Wisconsin. The first concerns why homeownership is increasing among the two groups: Hmong and Indian families are growing in financial wherewithal. That gives them the clout to pursue dreams like homeownership, and it offers Wisconsin added fuel for economic growth. Moreover, it is a welcome counterpoint to the overall gap between rich and poor, which grew in the 1990s.

The second trend concerns the impact homeownership has on communities. Homeownership is associated with reduced crime, civic responsibility and other "good citizenship" traits. Increasing homeownership rates suggest that Hmong and Indians are building strong communities.

Homeownership rates for Hmong and Indians remain far below the 68 percent average for Wisconsin. Moreover, homeownership varies widely within Hmong communities and from Indian tribe to tribe. Among Indians, homeownership rates were substantially dependent upon the effects of casinos, which have pumped money into some reservations but not others.

The disparities show that more needs to be done by and for Hmong and Indians to create opportunities for homeownership. But the trends are clearly positive - for Hmong, for Indians and for Wisconsin.

The Hmong and Indians who pursued the American dream and became homeowners during the 1990s deserve our congratulations and appreciation.