Henry Cisneros, Former HUD Secretary

Article excerpt

Even in an age where the term "expert" can be tossed around far too freely, Henry Cisneros could still reliably be called a "housing expert." He's got the resume to back it up.

As secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from 1993 to 1997, Cisneros was the standard-bearer for housing policy for the Clinton administration as he oversaw the federal agency charged with providing affordable housing and promoting community development.

In 1981, Cisneros was elected the first Hispanic-American mayor of a major U.S. city--San Antonio, Texas, where he served four terms. In his bio, Cisneros says he helped rebuild the city's economic base and spurred the creation of jobs through massive infrastructure and downtown improvements, "marking San Antonio as one of the nation's most progressive cities."

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Following his term as HUD secretary, Cisneros was president and chief operating officer of Los Angeles-based Univision Communications Inc., the Spanish-language broadcaster, from 1997 to 2000.

Currently, Cisneros is executive chairman of the San Antonio-based CityView companies, community-building firms dedicated to producing work-force homes in America's cities. He is also a member of the board of directors for Countrywide Financial Corporation, Calabasas, California; Live Nation, Beverly Hills, California, an urban entertainment company; and Avanzar Interior Technologies, San Antonio, an automotive technologies company.

Cisneros holds a bachelor of arts degree and a master's degree in urban and regional planning from Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas. He also earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University, Boston, and a doctorate in public administration from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Cisneros has been the author, editor or collaborator of several books, including, most recently, Casa y Comunidad: Latino Home and Neighborhood Design, which looks at the state of Latino homeownership.

Cisneros recently spoke with Mortgage Banking in a telephone interview about his book. He shared his thoughts about the future of minority homeownership in the United States and other aspects of housing policy.

Q: Your book focuses on home and neighborhood design for the growing demographic of Latino homebuyers, but you've also noted there is an opportunity for mortgage bankers and the financial services industry in general to recognize a tremendous untapped consumer/homebuyer potential within the U.S. Latino population. Can you quantify the size of the business opportunity for mortgage bankers?

A: By one estimate, fully a quarter of home sales going forward in the next decade will be to the nation's Latino population. Of the 10 million household formations that [will] lead to homeownership opportunities over the next decade, it's expected that about a quarter of those will be Latino families.

Because of the rapid growth in the Latino population, the younger age of [the] Latino population with the[ir] household formation years still ahead and the larger number of children, it is a very substantial population, which is a part of the message of this book.

Q: How can lenders best recognize this potential and adjust their mortgage products and marketing accordingly?

A: The first thing is to recognize that this is increasingly a national phenomenon. Heretofore we have thought of it as [only] a handful of places where this might be relevant, but in fact it is clear this is emerging as a national phenomenon.

So it's not just California, Texas, Florida, as we might have expected or thought of before. But [there are] very fast rates of [Latino population] growth in Arkansas, Georgia, the Carolinas, Washington state, Nevada and, clearly, Arizona [and] Colorado. So it is truly a national phenomenon at this point.

Q: Although there's been some growth in Hispanic homeownership, the homeownership rate gap between whites and Hispanics remains still sizable. …