Based on a new study by Zillow, Asian and Pacific Islander families bear the highest housing payment burdens among all races in the U.S., highlighting the unique financial strains many within the communities encounter.
Many Asian and Pacific Islander (API) homeowners are heavily concentrated in expensive markets nationwide, so the homes they purchase are typically priced higher than homes overall. In 2022, the typical value of a home purchased by Asian mortgage buyers was $575,000, while Pacific Islander mortgage buyers purchased homes valued at a median of $465,000, surpassing the overall median of $405,000 for all U.S. mortgage buyers. Primarily for this reason, API homeowners stretch their budgets to achieve homeownership more than other races.
"Many API-led households live in pricier coastal metros like New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles, which possibly helps drive up demand and thus the price home buyers can expect to pay," said Nicole Bachaud, senior economist at Zillow. "Residents of these communities tend to prioritize living in these areas because they offer a strong sense of community, access to cultural amenities and proximity to ethnic enclaves where they can find familiar cultural and social networks that often help facilitate area jobs."
Over the past decade (from 2011 to 2021), Asian homeownership surged by 5.1 percentage points, reaching a record high of 63.1%, outpacing all other racial and ethnic groups. Pacific Islanders followed closely with a 4.6 percentage points increase. However, despite these gains, both communities allocate a substantial portion of their household income to mortgage and rent payments. Nationally, when comparing across similar income levels, Asian-headed households allocate a higher percentage of their income towards housing payments than all other races except for Pacific Islanders.
Although Asian mortgage applicants have the lowest mortgage denial rate among all races, they are disproportionately burdened by a high debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. According to preliminary 2022 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, 41% of Asian applicants and 39.2% of Pacific Islander applicants who were denied a mortgage had their denial attributed to a too high DTI ratio, surpassing the 33.6% of denials for all races being based on DTI. They also face a higher proportion of denials due to insufficient funds to cover closing costs and lack of collateral compared to other racial groups.
While some signs point to housing gains, it's important to note that the API community is a diverse landscape of several different nationalities. Significant disparities in homeownership, household income, and mortgage denials exist among different Asian and Pacific Islander populations, with these gaps widening over time. Each subgroup presents unique challenges that need to be addressed.
"High incomes and homeownership gains may overshadow the significant housing affordability challenges still faced by many API households," said Bachaud. "Expanding housing inventory and implementing policies and solutions to enhance affordability are crucial for promoting homeownership and advancing housing equity in the United States."