Federal judges side with plaintiffs in Chinese buyer ban hearing

Publish Date: February 06, 2024

Written by Marian McPherson

- Originally published at Inman News - Marian McPherson

Two of the four plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in November against Florida’s foreign buyer ban have been awarded a temporary injunction that allows them to resume stalled transactions. The next step in toppling SB264 is an appeal hearing in April.

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Foreign buyers in Florida are one step closer to resecuring their property rights after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted the enforcement of Senate Bill 264, a controversial bill that curbs buyers’ ability to own properties near military installments or critical infrastructure facilities.

Judges Adalberto Jordan, Kevin Newsom and Nancy Abudu ruled in favor of Yifan Shen and Zhiming Xu, two of the four plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in November saying the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 overrides SB264. The judges said Shen and Xu faced the “most imminent risk of irreparable harm,” due to purchases that have been held in limbo due to the law.

“There’s no doubt that Florida’s discriminatory housing law is unconstitutional,” American Civil Liberties Union senior staff attorney Ashley Gorski said in a public statement. “The court’s decision brings two of our clients tremendous relief, and we will continue fighting to prevent this law from being enforced more broadly.”

Senate Bill 264 became law in May and targeted homebuyers from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria. The law prohibits buyers from directly or indirectly owning residential or agricultural property near military installations or critical infrastructure facilities. The law also limits buyers with a valid non-tourist visa or approved asylum purchasing ability to one residential property of two acres or less.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis championed the bill as a vital tool in stopping the Chinese Communist Party’s alleged hold on the U.S.; however, housing advocates said DeSantis’ communism claims were a poor cover for the bill’s true intent — the further disenfranchisement of Chinese homebuyers amid a rise in anti-Asian sentiments.

The Asian Real Estate Association of America has been one of the loudest opponents of SB264. The Association has been at the forefront of the #StopAsianHate movement in the industry and successfully lobbied for several landmark changes, including the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to track and include Asian housing data as a standalone category.

AREAA President Jaime Tian

“On behalf of our 18,000 members, I am thrilled with the court’s action,” Asian Real Estate Association of America President Jamie Tian said in a prepared statement. “This is an important step in having the law overturned. Using national security as a misguided reason, Florida’s legislators and governor wrongly targeted Chinese and other select groups of immigrants and their desire to purchase a home.”

“The Florida law hits home for me personally. My parents came to the U.S. from China as PhD candidates and they eventually bought a home in Irvine, California,” she added. “That home — and the safety and security it provided — changed the course of my life.”

“My love of that home led me to get my real estate license while at UCLA and to eventually own my own brokerage.  I shudder to think about what my parents would’ve gone through today if they had settled in Florida.”

Tian said the partial preliminary injunction is the first step in toppling SB264. The next step will be winning an appeals hearing with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April. If the plaintiffs’ counsel isn’t successful in April, Tian said the enforcement of SB264 will harm Asian homebuyers across the board.

“Along with the impact on the Chinese community, AREAA strongly believes that this law will create another barrier of entry to homeownership for all AANHPIs (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander),” she said. “Sellers and their real estate agents, who are unable to discern a buyer’s nationality, may refrain from selling to anyone of Asian descent because they would be worried about committing a third-degree felony and its potential penalty of five years in prison.”

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