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The BPC Immigration Task Force recently released a study that quantifies the economic impact of immigration reform. The study showed that immigration reform could jump-start the housing recovery by increasing residential construction spending by an average of $68 billion per year over a 20-year period.

What opportunities and challenges will immigration reform pose for future housing demand, housing markets, and/or economic revitalization?

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By Kent Watkins

In looking at the comprehensive federal housing milestones table, which was submitted by the National Academy to the BPC Housing Commission, it is clear that the various waves of immigration – starting, of course, with the early settlers relying on land use subsidies from the various governments in power – historically have created the demand, markets and economic development that is echoed in the latest wave of immigration in the late 20th century and now this one. The advent of both urban growth and density produced slum conditions in many instances and led to one of the first urban housing commissions in 1892 and then another one under President Theodore Roosevelt. These were the forerunners to the present-day BPC Housing Commission, and again, it is prescient that the variables of immigration reform and affordable housing are inter-twined.

In reviewing the BPC Immigration Task Force report, we are pleased to see this cross-referencing, which too often is missing in other studies. We decry the silo effects where only housing or transportation or education or health is the focus and not the holistic neighborhood, town, city, region or mega-corridor.

It is hoped that a question to consider the relationship between immigration reform and housing would be followed by discussion and expansion in a revised Housing Commission report. After a series of new hearings in the Commission is completed, more urban functions can be stitched together to create a realistic picture of how housing is connected in the delivery or impacted by other such mega-demographics and metropolitan functions. If the report is to serve as a strategic plan or blueprint for action, then its issuance nearly a year ago should not remain a static existence, but continually be revised and updated. The National Commission on Urban Disorders, for example, was followed by a publication entitled One Year Later, and reviewed the progress made during that time and also added or modified any previous recommendations, data, etc., as appropriate.

Kent Watkins is the chairman of the National Academy of Housing and Sustainable Communities.

Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

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