In May, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a bipartisan law, SB 264, which banned certain Chinese nationals from buying property within the state as a means of avoiding “the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.”
According to reports from NBC, a group of Chinese immigrants that are backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and additional civil rights groups, have been working to invalidate the new law, and the Justice Department even backed their effort in an official court filing this summer. The Justice Department stated that the law is unconstitutional, however, a judge ruled against that challenge back in August and settled with an appeal.
Many workers within the real estate industry have stated their disdain for the law, claiming that it’s ambiguous and is fueling a major risk for discrimination against Chinese buyers. According to the law, sellers who violate the restrictions knowingly could face up to $1,000 in fines and one year in prison while Chinese nationals who buy property in Florida face up to 5 years in prison and even higher fines.
Khalid Muneer of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association recently spoke to the media regarding the discriminations and difficulties this law created.
“Are we supposed to be FBI agents investigating people and asking them all kinds of questions?”
A veteran Florida real estate agent, Frank Lin, told the media that his business has been cut in half due to the fact that he has to turn down clients to comply with the law.
Additionally, Chinese nationals who already own property in Florida “are required by the new law to register with the state’s Commerce Department, but they don’t even have a form yet or place or website, so that’s confusing everyone. Failure to register by 2024 could trigger fines of up to $1,000 a day,” Lin said.
According to a Florida Commerce Department spokesperson, “a hearing is set for this week over a proposed rule on the registration requirement, the agency is dedicated to implementing SB 264 as outlined in law.”
Muneer spoke further on the discriminations that this law has created and the potential hostility it could create.
“If somebody comes in and is Asian-looking, you’re automatically going to start asking questions about where you’re from, which never used to happen.”
Many Asian American community members are viewing the Florida law as resembling xenophobic “alien land laws” of the early 20th century, which were later deemed unconstitutional.
The restrictions of the law cover both commercial and residential properties and apply to all Chinese nationals who aren’t US citizens or permanent residents and/or already owning property in China.
“If somebody comes in and is Asian-looking, you’re automatically going to start asking questions about where you’re from, which never used to happen,” said Khalid Muneer, founder of Jupiter Properties in Central Florida and president of the Greater Orlando chapter of the Asian American Realtors Association.
“Is this racism? Is this stereotyping? We are very well aware of the fact that we can have issues. We can be accused of discrimination. Some of [my] associates with heavily Chinese or Venezuelan clientele have seen a major, major drop in business,” Muneer said.
In recent months, some of the realtors are afraid to deal with [Chinese nationals] because they are looking at getting prosecuted for ‘not doing their job.’ But then again, are we supposed to be FBI agents investigating people and asking them all kinds of questions?” Muneer continued.
“The law is upending peoples’ lives.”
Florida in general receives about 23% of all foreign buyers throughout the US, the highest percentage of any state, according to the National Association of Realtors.
NBC reported that “five percent of Florida’s closed sales were to foreign buyers, according to a separate report from Florida Realtors. However, the bulk of Florida’s foreign buyers are Latin American, at 46%, and Canadian, at 24%. Among Chinese buyers, California is the most popular destination, drawing 33% of Chinese buyers to Florida’s 16%.”
“When you get a situation like this, where your main cash buyers are not allowed to buy, it does start hurting the market as well as sales agents who will depend on those sales for their living,” Muneer stated.
Gregory Burge, an economist, said “ownership bans like Florida’s don’t make a lot of sense from an economic standpoint. Top talent coming from these nations would certainly involve families wanting to retain their citizenship in their home countries, and then facing the barrier of buying in Florida under the new law,” he said. “That could act as a negative factor for slowing economic growth.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.