Randy Pollak

The police report tells the story of a straight-forward mugging. Marie Guadalupe, 19, and her husband, Christian Pineda, 19, were walking in their apartment complex, the 200-unit Preston Chase Apartments in Marietta, Ga. one night in May when a man wearing a hooded jacket approached them. Pointing a pistol at the couple, the assailant asked Pineda to hand over their money. But when the couple said they had none, the robber became angry and pushed them both to the ground, punched Pineda in the head, and demanded his keys. The suspect then took off in the couple's 2001 Ford Expedition. Though Pineda and a family member gave chase, neither the suspect nor the SUV was ever found.

What is not in the police report, however, is that the couple was likely targeted because they are Hispanic and were assumed to have cash with them. On that particular stretch of Franklin Road in Marietta, the number of robberies continues to rise despite more police resources in the neighborhood, says Officer Mark Bishop. And that has Hispanic residents in the area's apartments frightened—a fear that is not uncommon among Hispanic immigrants, says Janis Bowdler, associate director for the Wealth-Building Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. “It is a public safety concern because folks know [Hispanics] get paid on Friday in cash, and they become targets,” she says.

Such personal safety risks exist with legal and illegal immigrants of all backgrounds, but with nearly 45 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population coming from Mexico and South and Central America, these crimes are concentrated in Hispanic groups. This demographic group is also one that the apartment industry has watched closely for more than two decades. The reason? Of the country's nearly 37 million renter households in 2005, 6.1 million, or 16.5 percent, were headed by an immigrant, according to America's Rental Housing: The Key to A Balanced National Policy, a publication by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. And that number is poised to grow: 102.6 million immigrants are expected to arrive between now and 2050—by then, Hispanics will represent 29 percent of the country's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Hispanic Center, a research organization geared to understanding the U.S. Hispanic population.

From the time they arrive at your property to the time they move out, immigrant renters present a distinct set of challenges for apartment mangers. Whether it's managing the safety issues involved such as increased on-site crime or putting forth effort to ease their assimilation, apartment owners must learn how to cater to this growing demographic. This is the first in a series of stories exploring the myths and realities of three demographic groups that promise to drive multifamily demand over the next decade. MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE examined each demographic trend, analyzed the data, and culled anecdotal evidence from apartment executives in the field. Here's what we learned about the immigrant experience at multifamily properties.