Home » Business, Eastlake, Oakland

Oakland’s Asian Homeowners Beat Foreclosures

16 November 2008 No Comment

By Adelaide Chen

Oakland continues to rank among the top ten metropolitan areas in the U.S. with high rates of foreclosure, but the city’s Asian neighborhoods remain relatively untouched.

Chinatown, Eastlake and lower San Antonio have received few notices of default over the last three years, according to data analyzed by a local economic development nonprofit.

The notices serve as “the first line of evidence that there is a problem, and none of them are reflecting that there is one,” said Anne Griffith of Urban Strategies Council, who has mapped data of default notices and foreclosures in the city.

Realtors, mortgage brokers, and homeowners familiar with Asian culture say family networks of lending are common among Chinese and Vietnamese when buying a home. In addition, conservative spending habits and families living together contribute to financial stability.

When Bay Le, 46, considered buying his first home in Eastlake, his goal was a fixed-interest loan with a 20 percent down payment. But he came up short. So he called his sister in Ohio.

She wired him $20,000.

Four years later, he is still paying interest-free installments. “When I have the money, I send it back, little bit by little bit,” said Le, a contractor.

He and his wife rarely go out for entertainment. “Asians don’t spend money they don’t have,” he said. Instead, they save whatever they can, he said.

Le’s house is located northeast of International Boulevard, where Asians make up the dominant racial group — about 40 percent, according to the census — but occupy just under a third of the housing units.

Although only 17 percent of the residences in the area are owner-occupied, Asians are the largest homeownership group, comprising almost 60 percent.

Among renters in Eastlake, Asians and Pacific Islanders occupy the smallest percentage of rental units, less than two percent, according to the census. Blacks live in 37 percent of the rental units but make up a quarter of the area’s population.

The median family income in the area is estimated to be $34,965 this year, according to figures from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.

According to Van Hanh Nguyen, an accountant who helps her husband run a realty and mortgage company in the Eastlake commercial district, families commonly pool money together for a house. The families pay at least 20 percent down for a fixed-interest loan with a good rate, she said.

“When you have money, then you can buy the other person out,” she said. Nguyen and her sister were both co-owners. Their families lived together in the same house.

“It’s a good arrangement because our mother would watch over our children,” she said. Although living with another family means less privacy, this is considered normal for Asian families, she said.

In the Eastlake area, 30 percent of households who are Asian and related have five or more family members, according to the last census. Only Latinos, at 34 percent, are more likely to live in large households.

At 6 o’clock, three cars had parked in the driveway of Zagreus Qiu, 30, and he said he expected three more to arrive before the night ended. He and his wife live with his parents and a few others. They bought the house in 1998 after the turnover of Hong Kong to China in which they had sold everything and left. But they couldn’t have put a 30 percent down payment without a hefty sum his aunt wired from England.

He pointed out all the Asian families that lived in the single houses on his block. Some were renters. And some were new. The drop in property values had enabled families to buy for the first-time, and they were settling into two nearby Victorians.

Last 5 posts by Adelaide Chen

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Comments are closed.