How the ‘Chinese property ban’ impacts the American dream

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It’s interesting to see how one bill can potentially change the lives and futures of so many people. 

While so much industry attention has focused on low inventory, rising prices and mortgage rates, you may be unaware of even more madness that has occurred over the past year. Chinese nationals in several states are being heavily targeted by state governments by restricting property ownership for Chinese nationals. Florida is at the forefront as its SB 264 is now the law.

According to the Florida Senate, the bill “generally restricts the issuance of government contracts or economic development incentives to, or real property ownership by, foreign principals, which are certain individuals and entities associated with foreign countries of concern.”

This means that Chinese citizens and those from other countries of concern cannot buy farmland and other property within a 10-mile radius of a military base or important infrastructure. This new bill also specifically prevents Chinese nationals without U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status from owning property in Florida.

Sure, we all understand the importance of national security and Microsoft should be applauded for sounding the alarm when a Chinese company broke ground on a crypto-mining operation in Cheyenne, Wyoming, just a mile from a U.S. Air Force base. 

But these laws are not just preventing national security threats; they are discriminatory and feed the anti-Asian sentiment that we’ve seen grow in America. 

There are a few things to consider about the laws and bills and why they are seen as discriminatory. First, many Chinese people are here legally. They therefore have the right to buy property. Secondly, in Florida, real estate agents and sellers can be held accountable for selling to a Chinese person. And I shouldn’t need to remind you about the challenges that could potentially arise from a real estate professional inquiring about a person’s nationality prior to working with them. 

So, if you can’t determine if they are Chinese or not, the easiest way to avoid the concern is to not work with anyone who looks like they might be Chinese — which might just be every AANHPI person. You see, we are all going to be implicated. 

It’s a huge concern. For 20 years, AREAA has worked so hard to remove barriers of entry to homeownership for the AANHPI people. Despite the fact that we are the fastest-growing diverse population in the nation, our homeownership rate remains far below the rate for non-Hispanic whites at 62.7 percent and 74.5 percent, respectively. It is expected that by 2040, there will be 35.7 million AANHPI people in the U.S. 

You can see why we are so concerned with SB 264 and other similar bills. For me, they really hit home because my parents and I were once in the shoes of these Chinese immigrants. In fact, if my parents had settled in Florida instead of Southern California. And if it was today, they would not have been able to buy a home. I wanted to share my story so you can see the real potential impact of the Florida law and other bills.

I was born in China. My mom and dad were both structural engineering professors and researchers, and we lived in our small research lab in Nanjing since we could never secure a house there. At the time, all property was owned by the government, and you couldn’t buy or rent a property even if you had the means.

My parents worked their hardest but eventually realized a lab wasn’t a forever home. They both went to study in the U.S. to build a better life. 

I was left behind in China with my grandparents at just two years old — a difficult choice for my parents. My mom went for her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, and my dad did the same at the University of Oklahoma. At 4, I joined my dad in student housing while my mother was still in Pittsburgh. Three years later when my parents graduated from college, we reunited in a one-bedroom apartment in Southern California.

Many years of struggling and hard work eventually paid off when my parents purchased our first home in Irvine, California, fulfilling our American dream.

So many huge milestones happened because of this house. We had safety and security in Irvine. I met my now husband, Jason, in high school there, and my parents were able to afford to send me to UCLA by refinancing their mortgage. My love of that home led me to get my real estate license while in school, and today, I lead AREAA and own my own brokerage. 

I shudder when I think about what my parents would’ve gone through today. They might not have been able to buy a home, and I wouldn’t be who I am today. It’s infuriating to realize we now live in a reality where homeownership is potentially out of arms reach for AANHPI people in Florida due to one single bill. 

Sadly, our reality is also filled with discriminatory practices that aren’t just affecting AANHPI homebuyers; discrimination is an issue for many other groups, such as women, Hispanics and LGBTQ+ homebuyers. Each group works tirelessly to put a stop to hate and unfair practices in the real estate industry, but it would be more impactful if we all worked together.

That’s why I’m thrilled AREAA has partnered with the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), WomanUp! and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance to voice our concerns together through the Stop Hate in Real Estate initiative.

As a joint force, we will work toward creating a future where discrimination in real estate is eliminated for everyone. Remember that discrimination towards one group affects us all in the long run, so why not combat this issue as a collective?

I strongly encourage you to join our Stop Hate in Real Estate initiative so we can continue to better the homebuying process for minority groups in the U.S. and one day eliminate all barriers to homeownership.

Together, we will give everyone a fair chance to experience the American dream that my family and I worked so hard to realize.

Jamie Tian is the CEO and co-founder of RealiFi Realty and the national president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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