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Florida Bans Chinese Nationals, Companies From Buying Certain Real Estate

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning Chinese nationals, and those from six other countries, from owning certain types of real estate in the state. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at the State of the State on March 7, 2023. 

Photo is from official government website.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislation as part of a broader "crackdown on Communist China."

At a bill signing ceremony on Monday, DeSantis described the legislation as a “crackdown on Communist China.” When it goes into effect on July 1, the bill will prohibit citizens from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria who are not permanent U.S. residents from buying real estate, except under limited circumstances.

The bill, SB 264, also prohibits foreign entities and officers from the seven countries, labeled "countries of concern" in the bill, from buying farmland or any property within 10 miles of any military installation, seaport, airport, power plant, water treatment facility or any other location deemed critical infrastructure. It also prohibits anyone connected with the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party from purchasing real estate in Florida. 

The legislation provides a carveout for Chinese citizens with nontourist visas, allowing them to acquire single parcels that are smaller than 2 acres so long as the property is at least 5 miles from a military installation.

Mike Pappas, CEO of The Keyes Co. and Illustrated Properties, said that the bill presented challenges for sellers bound by the state’s fair housing laws.

“How do you disclose? What are the legal implications?” Pappas told Bisnow via email. “I believe there will be challenges, and we will have to see how this actually plays out.”

He said that while Chinese buyers represented a small percentage of overall buyers in South Florida, the new legislation still had the potential to hurt the market.

DeSantis, who is widely expected to soon announce that he is running for the Republican nomination for president, has framed the laws as a deterrent against a hostile nation.

“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” DeSantis said at the bill signing ceremony.

The new law was part of a three-part legislative package that DeSantis signed on Monday. DeSantis also signed SB 846, which bans state colleges and universities from accepting gifts from or making agreements with countries of concern, and SB 258, which expands Florida’s government device ban on TikTok and other apps created or owned by the seven countries of concern. 

The governor’s office said in a release that the bills are designed to “counteract the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida.”

“China and other hostile foreign nations control hundreds of thousands of acres of critical agricultural lands in the U.S., leaving our food supply and our national security interests at risk,” Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson said in a statement. “Restricting China and other hostile foreign nations from controlling Florida’s agricultural land and lands near critical infrastructure facilities protects our state, provides long-term stability, and preserves our economic freedom.”

Critics of the legislation, however, are concerned that the bills signed by DeSantis include broad prohibitions that could result in lawsuits challenging it on grounds of discrimination.

"My concern has always been with the lack of definitions with some of the critical terms used in the bill," House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa, who voted against the legislation, told USA Today. "Because we have a lack of definitions, if they were viewed to be overbroad, we could be veering into the area of national origin discrimination."

More than 100 people signed up to testify against the Florida bill at its last committee hearing, voicing concerns that its language was too broad and will lead to discrimination, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Advocacy groups are also concerned that the bill will lead property sellers to avoid Chinese American buyers over fears they’ll be breaking the law.

The legislation comes as a rising chorus of policymakers nationwide discuss placing limits on how Chinese nationals and companies can operate in the U.S. A bill introduced to the House of Representatives in December would increase federal oversight of farm purchases, citing concern about Chinese investment in the agriculture sector.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled his support for a bill moving through the legislature that would ban people, companies and government entities from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying property in the state.

Former President Donald Trump, the current poll leader in the Republican presidential primary, released a video in January where he promised to ban Chinese nationals from owning U.S. farmland or U.S.-based telecommunications, energy, technology and medical supplies companies.

The "countries of concern" bill passed both houses of the state legislature with broad consensus. The Senate version passed 31-8, with all eight senators in opposition being Democrats. The House bill passed by a wider margin, 95-17.