New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Utah Senator Mike Lee are introducing a bipartisan bill aimed at improving the housing market by offering an incentive to foreign buyers, the Wall Street Journal report. The senators want to offer residence visas to any foreigner that spends at least $500,000 on residential real estate in the United States. The measure compliments existing rules that offer visas to foreign investors that create jobs in America.
“This is a way to create more demand without costing the federal government a nickel,” Schumer said.
During the current downturn, foreign investors have become a growing part of the U.S. real estate market. In New York, buyers from China and elsewhere are increasingly shopping for condos, while in South Florida, Latin American and Canadian buyers are driving an otherwise stagnant market. In the 12 months ending in March 2011, foreigners accounted for $82 billion of U.S. home sales, compared to $66 billion in the trailing 12 months.
As a result, some opponents of the idea, including Realogy CEO Richard Smith, say it’s an unnecessary measure as foreign buyers have shown they don’t need incentive to make purchases. But restrictive immigration laws are hindering some would-be purchasers, real estate agents say, and any increase in housing sales could improve confidence in the market and in turn ignite a recovery. [WSJ]