The numbers state it loud and clear. Between 2002 and 2012, expect each year to see 1.7 million immigrants enter the country, according to the National Association of Home Builders. For multifamily developers, that means a steady influx of renters—immigrants tend to rent, not buy, their homes during their first five to 10 years in the United States.

But Simpson Housing Solutions, an affordable housing developer in Long Beach, Calif., isn't waiting for immigrants to come to them. Four years ago, the company began to develop much-needed housing in California's rural farming communities,

“These areas have grown over the last eight to 10 years, yet there has been no new product developed for them,” says Michael Costa, Simpson's president. Families are doubling and tripling up and renting garages in these overlooked areas, he adds. Simpson is building about 1,000 rental units per year in these rural communities.

In the coming years, expect to see more tailoring of product to meet the needs of specific demographics, like ethnic populations, says Doug Bibby, president of the National Multi Housing Council. “You are going to see more on-site staff having multilingual capabilities both in terms of printed material and in terms of language skills.”

National Church Residences, a Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit affordable housing developer, is seeing a huge flood of Somalian renters at its Columbus properties. So the company is building more three- and four-bedroom apartments to accommodate larger families and has hired a Somalian consultant to assist residents with supportive services.

While the demand for affordable housing during the next 10 years will be greater than ever, the high costs of land and construction will continue to pose a huge obstacle to producing more affordable product. Developers rely on programs like low-income housing tax credits.

“I hope and pray that the low-income housing tax credit program is still around [in the next decade] because in my 25 years of developing affordable housing, this program has had the most significant impact on affordable housing,” says Costa.

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University

WELCOME HOME: National Church Residences helps Somalian renters adjust to life in America by offering everything from ESL classes to job placement services. The apartment firm hired a Somalian consultant to work with residents.