Back in May Florida’s Governor, and now presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis passed a bill that restricts Chinese citizens from buying property unless they are also American citizens or permanent residents. This law, which DeSantis characterized as a “crackdown on Communist China,” is now being challenged in court by the ACLU, the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance, and the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund. The plaintiffs claim that “Florida’s pernicious new law weaponizes false claims of ‘national security’ against Asian immigrants and others.”
The legislation coincides with escalating geopolitical tensions between the world’s two largest economies. But those contesting the law argue that such circumstances do not justify the state’s discrimination based on citizenship status, as they view it as comparable to an ethnicity ban, which is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act. Should the court deem the ban unconstitutional, its ramifications would extend beyond Florida, as other states like Louisiana and Texas are also contemplating similar bans.
Bans on foreign property ownership are not uncommon. For example, in China, foreign investors are prohibited from buying land, and starting this year in Canada, foreigners are unable to purchase homes. Some of these bans are aimed at addressing the escalating unaffordability of housing in many cities. But, as noble of a cause as that might be, there is little evidence that it actually lowers the cost of living. American real estate has always been a popular choice for international investors and some worry that excluding them will cut off the flow of foreign money into the U.S. economy. Besides, many foreign buyers are skilled at using other entities or shell corporations to purchase real estate so the ban might be more symbolic than an actual attempt to make real estate more affordable for American citizens.