The most important demographic attributes that characterize the national Latino population are the larger size and relative youth of families. For builders, those attributes will mean attention to the overall amount of floor space, as well as thoughtful configuration of rooms. One attractive approach is building homes with more but smaller bedrooms, so that large families with children of different ages can be accommodated as they move from infancy to adolescence while the house itself remains as affordable as possible. Another approach is configuring the rooms so that parents can monitor the activities of children in their bedrooms and other areas of the house from a central activity space or from a master bedroom. Adding family social space, including study nooks and play spaces for children, will attract a large, active family.

Because of larger family sizes, many Latino families need more bedrooms but cannot afford a house with the necessary number of bedrooms. As family needs grow, many families convert their garages into an additional room. It is not unusual for an informal survey of a 10-year-old subdivision with a high proportion of Latino residents to show that about every other house has a converted garage. One pair of grandparents described their need to convert their garage into living space resulting from their enjoyment of having their growing number of grandchildren spend the weekends with them.

One answer is for builders to construct homes that trade the need for additional bedroom space for an enclosed garage. Such a home would have a less expensive carport or parking pad so that the additional bedroom could be provided. Another approach is to forego the extra bedroom at construction, but to finish the garage in such a way that it can be easily converted into an additional room as family needs dictate. This option might include a front elevation designed so that if the garage is eventually enclosed, it can be built to match the existing exterior facade.

Latino families tend to prepare food in their homes for a variety of reasons. For larger families, the cost of eating out is greater, and many families enjoy traditional recipes that may not be offered in restaurants. The result is that the homemaker may spend a good deal of time in the kitchen. Builders will want to construct the kitchen in a way that assures ample space for a large family and is part of an open floor plan so that the homemaker in the kitchen can watch children at play. That would include creating sight lines to children in a family room as they do their homework, work at computers, or otherwise entertain themselves. Similar attention should be given to the configuration of outdoor play space so that large windows or doors make it possible for the person in the kitchen to keep an eye on children who are playing in the backyard or patio.

LIFESTYLES Like many American families, Latino families tend to lead active lives that typically focus around family involvements. With their large, extended families, it is common to host gatherings that include not only the family members who reside in the home but also the host's siblings and their children plus grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws. Special days on the calendar, such as Mother's Day and Easter and celebratory family days such as birthdays, baptisms, quinceañeras, and saints' feast days can generate a large number of family guests.

One possible accommodation is to design space so that the flow of people from an inside social space is directed to an outdoor gathering or cooking space. Tens of millions of Latino families live in temperate climates —in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California —so that even in the winter months, it is common to enjoy days in which a good deal of the social activity occurs outdoors. Latino family gatherings are frequently characterized by groupings of people in different spaces. The older men may sit outside near a barbecue pit while the señoras gather in the kitchen and the younger children play outside in the yard. Young men may be gathered around a television set watching a sporting event and the young misses talking in an adjacent bedroom. Builders planning for these frequent uses should consider not just interior layouts but also exterior spaces, including a barbecue pit, patio space, and play space for children. Because of the intensity of the sun in many of these areas, it may also be useful to provide outdoor covered spaces, perhaps with a ceiling fan, to create the feeling of an “outdoor room.”

Another dimension of the practical interplay between family activities and work obligations as they impact space requirements involves providing ample space for parking automobiles at each home. One of the more common complaints in existing communities experiencing an influx of Latino families, as well as in new communities not planned with Latino families in mind, is too many cars parked on the streets. Clearly, if a family requires multiple cars for its multi-generational members' transportation needs for work and school, then more parking for cars is needed.

Many Latino wage earners are entrepreneurs in occupations, such as construction, that require a pick-up truck or van. Building a home for Latino families that can accommodate only one car in a garage or on a driveway will generally prove to be inadequate. Recognizing the need for parking more vehicles, builders may provide an extended driveway or set the garage to the rear along the side of the house. In this way, the home has a driveway of greater length where multiple cars can be parked on the property instead of crowding the street.

LATINO COMMUNITY When building communities in areas where Latino families are likely to be a large percentage of home buyers, builders should plan community facilities with family size and recreational preferences in mind. Because of the large number of children, it will be important to consider play space for children. The siting of homes within a community to allow for walking access to play areas through an interconnected network of sidewalks, bike paths, or trails is important. The type of play areas could also be important. It would be ideal to locate soccer fields or other ball fields within a larger community. In smaller communities, basketball courts, small parks, plazas for sitting in central locations, and barbecue pits for family gatherings can accommodate the community needs of Latino families.

The selection of the exterior colors for homes can add to the attractiveness, sense of liveliness, and identity of an entire community. Many older Latino homes, whether in the Caribbean, in Mexico, or in the barrios and colonias of U.S. cities, are more brightly colored than typically found in American home painting palettes. It is not unusual to see homes painted in turquoise, sky blue, or peach in Miami's Little Havana and Tampa's Ybor City. And the west side of San Antonio and east Los Angeles are notable for homes and stores painted yellow, orange, and even light purple. Builders of modern subdivisions in areas of cities with large Latino populations have found that offering “brighter-than-pastel” colors seems to add fun and freshness as well as appeal to heritage and nostalgia.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.