Property bans don’t just endanger buyers – they hurt agents

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I recently read the new book, A fever in the heart of the country, by Timothy Egan. It was about the rise of the KKK in the early 1920s in Indiana and beyond, largely led by those still angry at the abolition of slavery and the loss of Confederates in the Civil War.

It was striking to read that despite the progress our nation had made at the time, there were hundreds of thousands of people who wanted to turn back the clock, targeting Jews, Catholics, immigrants and, of course, black people.

As I read, I recognized the similarities we see in America today, as too many people are working extremely hard to set us back, knowing that our nation is approaching the 2040s, when the United States should be more than 50% diversified.

We’ve had so many recent examples. State laws against LGBTQ+ people, rising hate crimes, targeted mass shootings, fear of acknowledging racism and slavery in our schools, bills targeting immigrant home buyers, and the decision of the Supreme Court to reverse the affirmative action.

I believe all of these issues are real estate issues because they have a huge impact on where and how they live and their ability to move forward with their lives and earn a living while saving for down payments.

What I don’t understand is why these people are against equal opportunity for those who have been disadvantaged before. Why do we allow more opportunities for discrimination? I have been discriminated against in my life. It’s not funny. And real estate professionals should lead the charge against it.

Why aren’t real estate professionals shouting louder against these bills so obviously tied to homeownership and community?

As many of you are likely aware, certain states in America – led by Florida and Texas – are currently pushing and enacting legislation that would effectively create a “Chinese Ownership Ban”. Florida is also going after citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela.

Under this legislation, lawmakers are proposing that targeted potential buyers cannot own more than a certain number of properties, limited to certain areas only.

You may have seen recently that the US Department of Justice shared that the Florida law would violate the federal Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. He wrote,

“These unlawful provisions will cause serious harm to persons simply because of their national origin, violate federal civil rights laws, violate constitutional rights, and will not advance the state’s purported goal of enhancing public safety. .”

National security is cited as the justification for these restrictions. Of course, national security is paramount, but the way these bills are drafted welcomes increased discrimination. It would be far too easy for a door-to-door salesperson to look at me, an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, and refuse to sell to me simply because they might think I “look” Chinese.

While politicians want to stoke fear and hide behind discrimination as a matter of national security, it really is a matter of national insecurity.

And, if you didn’t think that was your problem as a real estate professional, think again. It would also be illegal for a real estate professional or business to knowingly sell to restricted persons.

This means that if I was your buyer, since you can probably tell I’m a member of the AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander) community, but you can’t tell if I’m Chinese, you have to ask me if I am Chinese. By doing so, you have clearly entered the “discrimination zone”, wading through fair housing laws while violating the real estate agent’s code of ethics.

These discriminatory laws put you at risk – not just me and not just the folks at AANHPI or other miscellaneous groups. Here is an overview of states with anti-Chinese bills or legislation:


Florida’s SB 264 states that “it will be a crime for Chinese people to buy property in restricted areas or for any person or real estate company to knowingly sell to restricted persons,” according to the Associated Press.

These restricted areas include locations near military bases, airports or seaports, telecommunications offices, etc. The amount of land owned by a Chinese citizen is also limited to individual plots of less than two acres.


The other state receiving the most attention is Texas. The Texas Senate has already passed a bill banning Chinese citizens from owning “real estate”. This terminology refers to agricultural land (farms, meadows, pastures), improved agricultural land, mines or quarries, land containing valuable minerals, or land with standing timber.

This imposition effectively makes the ranch lifestyle, which attracts many buyers to the state of Texas, impossible for members of the Chinese community.

While these restrictions are daunting, they are actually watered down remnants of an even more xenophobic proposition. The original bill proposed that citizens or dual citizens would be barred from any sale of property, making it impossible to buy a home in the state. There is also another bill on the table that would ban all Chinese students from attending public universities in the state.


Montana is a lesser-known state that is in the process of enacting anti-China legislation. Governor Gianforte has enacted the same location-based restrictions we see in Florida, prohibiting Chinese or businesses from being allowed to own or lease property near critical infrastructure or farmland.


The Alabama Senate is putting in place a very open set of limitations for Chinese citizens. Here, the ban uses the same terminology as Texas, “real property”, but there is no definition of real property in the state. This leaves the possibility that all real estate transactions will be prohibited for Chinese citizens, not just those on farmland.

Unfortunately, 24 other states are also creating or proposing similar laws.

The 20 year old Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) has almost 18,000 members but we are not a homogenous group of “Asians”. Instead, we are made up of over 30 different cultural groups, and it is our responsibility to protect each of these communities, no matter where they are in the country.

This includes the Chinese-American community which consists of 4 million people, with 66% of those residents being homeowners, according to our latest State of Asia America Report.

Our report also indicated that we continue to see AANHPI migration as our community – like so many Americans – seek more affordable homeownership opportunities. Texas and Florida were obvious destinations, but there are so many more. But how can we migrate if we fear being discriminated against?

And let’s not forget our AREAA members. How will AANHPI’s real estate professionals do their jobs if government leaders and discriminating citizens are watching their shoulders to make sure they’re not working with “illegal” buyers?

I feel responsible for ensuring that the entire real estate industry recognizes that it is under attack, not just Chinese citizens, AANHPI members, or other miscellaneous groups.

We are meant to work to create and empower communities, not stand aside as some work to marginalize others. We are supposed to champion home ownership for all.

It is incumbent upon us to be the strongest defender against hate and discrimination and to stand against those who seek to disrupt the American dream.

The real estate industry should not remain silent while others fight for us. Those like:

  • Chinese citizens living and working in Florida who sued the state And fight against texas.
  • THE American Civil Liberties Union indicating that the the law will have a substantial deterrent effect on sales to Chinese and Asians who can legally buy property
  • Representative of the Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Judy Chuof California, response: “Buying real estate is a critical step for immigrant families, students, and refugees in pursuit of the American Dream, and we would deny these immigrants access to the same values ​​our country was once built on. adopting these restrictions.”

I want to close by again expressing concern that these laws represent an open invitation to future discrimination against the AANHPI community. Remember, we faced discrimination and hate from day one. The pandemic being defined as a “Chinese virus” certainly didn’t help. Now this. It has to stop!

Kurt Nishimura is the President of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and has over 25 years of real estate experience. Connect with him on LinkedIn.