Latino real estate leaders asked lawmakers in Washington to reverse investor-favored policies in the housing market that hinder Hispanics and other first-time home buyers.

Citing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac REO to Rental programs that eliminate affordable housing stock from the market, executives of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) said the creation of large investor-controlled housing markets undermine the potential for economic stimulus and recovery that owner-occupant buyers can bring to the U.S. economy.

“Wall Street wins again! Hundreds of thousands of residential properties are being purchased by large investors through channels that are unavailable to owner-occupant buyers,” said Juan Martinez, NAHREP president. “With new housing construction still at a low and buyer demand on the rise, these programs have eliminated housing stock from the owner-occupant market at a time when first-time homebuyers can buy affordable housing at low interest rates.”

Failure to provide home buying opportunities to some of the most important growth segments of our nation - such as the Latino community - not only jeopardizes economic growth for our nation, it compromises the long-term financial stability of a generation.

- Juan Martinez, NAHREP president

The NAHREP plea comes soon after the release of the group’s report that states that Latinos could help speed up the housing market recovery if not for the red tape and inventory shortage surrounding buying a home.

“The Hispanic population in the U.S. is expected to continue to grow at a faster pace than the general population over the next several decades,” the NAHREP report said. “In terms of challenges, the most significant barrier to Hispanic homeownership in the short term are inventory shortages. Access to affordable, low down payment mortgages is the key in the long run.”

The NAHREP study comes as reports emerge that home prices are growing as fast as before the housing collapse in 2008.

The S&P/Case-Shiller indexes – the most widely followed measure of home prices – rose at its fastest rate since the summer of 2006 in January. The 20-city home price index climbed 8.1 percent in the 12-month period, with large gains being made Phoenix (23.2 percent), Las Vegas (15.3 percent) and Miami (10.8 percent) – all cities with large Latino populations.

“The shadow inventory continued to drop at double the rate in January from prior-year levels. At this point in the recovery, we are seeing healthy reductions across much of the nation,” Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic’s president and chief executive, told the Washington Post.

The NAHREP, however, warned that many of the homes that have driven the rise were purchased by investors. The group reported that 90 percent of all foreclosed homes in Phoenix were bought by investors and it saw similar trends in other markets like Las Vegas, Miami, Sacramento, Los Angeles and California’s Inland empire.

“Failure to provide home buying opportunities to some of the most important growth segments of our nation - such as the Latino community - not only jeopardizes economic growth for our nation, it compromises the long-term financial stability of a generation,” said Martinez.

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