Nearly a quarter-million undocumented Latino immigrants could become homeowners if they had greater access to the mortgage market, according to research that is said to be the first attempt at quantifying the economic impact this group of "illegals" would have on the economy.Together, the 216,000 who have the income necessary to afford a modest house would account for $44 billion in mortgage originations, the study found. Prepared for the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, the report is sure to fan the flames of an already highly controversial issue of whether persons in this country illegally should be allowed to buy homes. But Gary Acosta, a San Diego mortgage broker who is chairman of the 12,000-member NAHREP, said at the group's annual marketing conference in Denver that undocumented Hispanics "would make cash registers ring all across America" if they had an easier path to homeownership. The study by Rob Paral and Associates says "finding ways to permit ownership among the undocumented is not the same as calling for legalization." While legalization "would be a powerful stimulus," access to credit would be even more so, the researcher says. Currently, neither Fannie Mae nor Freddie Mac will buy loans made to undocumented immigrants.

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