Monthly Archives: April 2013
Published: April 28, 2013
SAN MARINO, Calif. — Beneath the palm trees that line Huntington Drive, named for the railroad magnate who founded this Southern California city, hang signs to honor families who have helped sponsor the centennial celebration here this year. There are names like Dryden, Crowley and Telleen, families that have lived here for generations. But there are newer names as well: Sun, Koo and Shi.
A generation ago, whites made up roughly two-thirds of the population in this rarefied Los Angeles suburb, where most of the homes are worth well over $1 million. But Asians now make up over half of the population in San Marino, which has long attracted some of the region’s wealthiest families and was once home to the John Birch Society’s Western headquarters.
The transformation illustrates a drastic shift in California immigration trends over the last decade, one that can easily be seen all over the area: more than twice as many immigrants to the nation’s most populous state now come from Asia than from Latin America.
And the change here is just one example of the ways immigration is remaking America, with the political, economic and cultural ramifications playing out in a variety of ways. The number of Latinos has more than doubled in many Southern states, including Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, creating new tensions. Asian populations are booming in New Jersey, and Latino immigrants are reviving small towns in the Midwest.
Much of the current immigration debate in Congress has focused on Hispanics, and California has for decades been viewed as the focal point of that migration. But in cities in the San Gabriel Valley — as well as in Orange County and in Silicon Valley in Northern California — Asian immigrants have become a dominant cultural force in places that were once largely white or Hispanic.
“We are really looking at a different era here,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California who has studied census data. “There are astounding changes in working-class towns and old, established, wealthy cities. It is not confined to one place.”
Asians have become a majority in more than half a dozen cities in the San Gabriel Valley in the last decade, creating a region of Asian-dominated suburbs that stretches for nearly 30 miles east of Los Angeles. In the shopping centers, Chinese-language characters are on nearly every storefront, visible from the freeways that cut through the area.
Monterey Park, a middle-class city that began attracting Asian immigrants more than a generation ago, is still widely seen as the area’s center and retail hub. But as Asians have continued to arrive in Southern California, they have moved into some of the most exclusive cities in Los Angeles County, making up more than 60 percent of the population in San Gabriel and Walnut, along the county’s eastern edge.
Many of the immigrants come here from China and Taiwan, where they were part of a highly educated and affluent population. They have eagerly bought property in places like San Marino, where the median income is nearly double that of Beverly Hills and is home to one of the highest-performing school districts in the state. The local library now offers story time in Mandarin.
But the wealth is not uniform, and there are pockets of poverty in several of the area’s working-class suburbs, particularly in Vietnamese and Filipino communities.
“This is kind of ground zero for a new immigrant America,” said Daniel Ichinose, a demographer at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. “You have people speaking Mandarin and Vietnamese and Spanish all living together and facing many common challenges.”
The children of the immigrants who began transforming the area a generation ago are beginning to come of age, becoming cheerleaders for the region, running for political office and creating businesses that cater to a distinctly American-born audience.
There are countless stores that display signs in Mandarin, sell restaurant supplies and Chinese herbs, or advertise acupuncture or brokerage services. But perhaps the most common storefront is the boba tea shop, where young patrons spend hours drinking cold milk tea with jellylike tapioca balls. Nearly every one of the region’s hundreds of strip malls boasts a cafe — or even two — offering a dizzying number of variations on the sweet drink.
Andrew and David Fung, who grew up in Seattle, were surprised to see the pervasiveness of Chinese and Taiwanese culture in the San Gabriel Valley.
After moving to the area a couple of years ago to try to break into the entertainment industry, the Fung brothers created several hip-hop videos celebrating what they termed the “boba life,” to embrace the area where, as their lyrics explain, “kids drink more milk tea than liquor.” The videos became so wildly popular on the Internet that local leaders began showing them in official meetings.
“People here think it’s normal, hanging out to drink boba all day long, but this culture doesn’t exist everywhere, and we’re trying to tell them to embrace it, to own it,” said David Fung, 26. “We’ve got to teach ourselves to be proud of who we are and tell others about it.”
The Fung brothers have helped create a local ethnic pride that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, said Oliver Wang, a professor of sociology at California State University, Long Beach, who grew up in San Marino in the 1980s and returned to the area three years ago. The area could become central to Asian-American identity in the region in the way East Los Angeles is to Latinos or South Los Angeles is to African-Americans, he said.
“It wasn’t cool to be Chinese or cool to be Asian,” he said. “The idea that the San Gabriel Valley could be the locus of some kind of cultural movement or identity is fascinating. They are asserting cultural capital to create Asian-American identity that wasn’t there before, and one that is homegrown, not imported from Taiwan or Hong Kong.”
But the growth has not come without some backlash. While there is rarely overt tension in the area these days, there is a history of clashes over English-only ordinances, and some people still speak in hushed tones about Chinese immigrants taking over the region.
More recently, there have been renewed complaints of “maternity tourism,” a cottage industry that brings Chinese women here to give birth so their children can have American citizenship. Residents, including immigrants, have complained to officials about large houses that host dozens of pregnant women at a time.
Jay Chen, 35, a member of the Hacienda Heights school board in the San Gabriel Valley, recalled a 2010 controversy over a plan to create a Chinese-language class at a local middle school. Last year, when Mr. Chen challenged a longtime Republican congressman, Ed Royce, to represent a newly drawn district, he received a handful of messages using anti-Asian slurs.
“There’s still this conservative element that said teaching Chinese meant you were teaching communism,” said Mr. Chen, who lost the race. “Meanwhile, people are fighting to get into our district so their children — of whatever ethnicity — can take these classes.”
Food often draws outsiders to the region, which is packed with mom-and-pop restaurants where a feast can cost less than $20.
Last summer, Jonny Hwang, 32, a son of Taiwanese immigrants, created the 626 Night Market. (Its name is play on the region’s area code.) At the first event, with dozens of local food vendors, more than 15,000 people clogged the streets to get in. “It surprised everyone,” Mr. Hwang said. “All of the sudden we had a community and something that even other people wanted.”
A version of this article appeared in print on April 29, 2013, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: New Suburban Dream Born Of Asia and Southern California.
Seller confidence is surging: The number of home sellers who say now is a good time to sell doubled in the second quarter, according to a new survey of nearly 2,000 owners conducted by real estate brokerage Redfin. In the first quarter of 2013, 22 percent surveyed said it was a good time to sell compared to 45 percent in the second quarter.
The percentage of respondents who say now is a good time to buy dropped by 10 percent in that time frame. Forty-four percent of home owners say it's a good time to buy, compared to 54 percent in the first quarter.
"More folks who bought before the bubble burst are now above water and listing their homes," says Chad Dierickx, a real estate practitioner with Redfin. "When sellers see their neighbors' homes selling quickly and for prices they never would have imagined a couple of years ago, they can't help but be optimistic about the market."
Nearly 32 percent of home owners surveyed said they have no concerns about selling right now. Eighty-five percent of sellers say they believe home prices will rise in their area for the next year — up from 81 percent in the first quarter, according to the survey.
The parents of a woman who was married to Boston marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev put their North Kingstown, R.I., home up for sale the day after the suspect was killed in gunfire with police in Massachusetts.
The family had been preparing the home to sell for several weeks, and the listing went live last Friday. The listing was taken down Monday. The couple’s real estate agent declined to comment to media about why the home was shortly removed from the market.
The family’s Colonial home was listed for $467,000.
The couple are the parents to Katherine Russell, who they confirmed to reporters Friday evening was married to Tsarnaev and the father to their 3-year-old child. The parents issued the following statement Friday evening: "Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child. We cannot begin to comprehend how this horrible tragedy occurred. In the aftermath of the Patriots Day horror we know that we never really knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Our hearts are sickened by the knowledge of the horror he has inflicted."
Source: “Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Family’s North Kingstown House up for Sale,” Providence Journal (April 21, 2013) and “Lawyer: Widow of Alleged Boston Bomber Suspected Nothing,” USA Today (April 23, 2013)
Homebuilders broke ground on homes in March at the fastest pace since June 2008, mostly fueled by a surge in apartment construction, the Commerce Department reports. Housing starts rose 7 percent in March from February, reaching the seasonally adjusted rate of 1.04 million.
Homebuilders have ramped up production as buyers rush to take advantage of continued housing affordability due to low mortgage rates.
The pace of homebuilding in March was nearly 46 percent higher compared to the same time last year.
Apartment construction led housing starts in March, soaring 31.1 percent, while single-family home construction dropped 4.8 percent.
The recent data “is a reflection of the solid demand that many areas are seeing for rental apartments as young people take that first step into the housing market, which is a very positive development," says Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders. "The numbers are also in keeping with our latest surveys that show single-family builders are experiencing some difficulties in keeping up with rising demand for new homes due to increasing construction costs and other factors."
Regionally, housing starts dropped 5.8 percent in the Northeast. However, the rest of the country showed strong gains, including a 10.9 percent increase in the South, 9.6 percent gain in the Midwest, and a 2.7 percent rise in the West.
Building permits — a gauge for future home construction — fell 3.9 percent in March, after having reached a five-year high in February.
Source: “U.S. Housing Starts Surpass 1 Million in March,” The Associated Press (April 16, 2013) and the National Association of Home Builders
For the second consecutive week, fixed-rate mortgages edged down, providing ongoing support for the housing recovery, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.43 percent this week, which is near its 65-year record low.
Here’s a closer look at rates for the week ending April 11:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.43 percent, with an average 0.8 point, dropping from last week’s 3.54 percent average. A year ago at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.88 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 2.65 percent, with an average 0.7 point, falling from last week’s 2.74 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.11 percent.
- 5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.62 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 2.65 percent average. Last year at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.85 percent.
- 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.62 percent, with an average 0.3 point, dropping from last week’s 2.63 percent average. A year ago at this time, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.80 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
With tighter inventories of homes for sale, buyers are finding increased competition through bidding wars. But the bidding may not be between only one or two other buyers — more bidding wars are popping up where dozens or even hundreds of other buyers are all competing for the same property.
"The only question is not whether a new listing will get multiple bids but how many it will get," Kris Vogt, who manages Coldwell Banker offices in the Sacramento area, told CNNMoney.
For example, a home in Elk Grove, Calif., reportedly received 62 separate bids, with the final sales price more than $150,000 above its $129,000 asking price. In Cambridge, Mass., real estate brokers stopped accepting bids after the tally reached 250 bids for two condos listed at $800,000 each. The two condos ended up selling together for $2 million.
Seventy-five percent of real estate agents with the brokerage Redfin surveyed in March say their clients have faced multiple bid situations for properties — up from 56 percent in late 2011.
Bidding wars appear to be most prevalent in California. Ninety percent of homes sold in San Francisco, Sacramento, and throughout Southern California saw multiple bids during the month, CNNMoney reports. What’s more, at least two-thirds of listings in Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and New York had bidding wars for homes too.
Meanwhile, inventories of for-sale homes continues to be low. The National Association of REALTORS® reported a 19.2 percent drop in inventories year-over-year in February.
Source: “The home bidding wars are back!” CNNMoney (April 4, 2013)
Home sales are projected to post some big gains in the next two years, according to Fannie Mae’s latest monthly economic outlook.
Fannie Mae economists predict that existing-home sales will rise by 10.5 percent this year, and by 6.2 percent in 2014. The economists made even bolder projections for new single-family home sales — growing 15.1 percent this year and 44.1 percent in 2014.
"We expect home prices to firm further amid a durable housing recovery, continuing to boost household net worth, gradually diminishing the population of underwater borrowers, and reducing incentive for strategic defaults," according to Fannie Mae’s report.
Fannie Mae projects that mortgage rates will stay low by historical averages this year, but the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will rise from an average of 3.5 percent during the first quarter to an average of 4 percent during the final three months of 2013. During the fourth quarter of 2014, mortgage rates are projected to tick up to a 4.5 percent average.
Mortgage applications for purchases are projected to increase by 16.8 percent this year and by 17.1 percent in 2014. However, a decline in applications for refinancings will likely cause mortgage originations to be down 14.5 percent this year and by 31.4 percent in 2014, Fannie economists predict.
Source: “Fannie Mae sees housing upturn as 'intact',” Inman News (March 28, 2013)