AREAA, Fair Housing Advocates File Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc. and the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches, have filed a fair housing discrimination suit in Miami federal court, together challenging Florida’s state law SB 264. Each organization is claiming the bill violates the Federal Fair Housing Act—with claims that Florida is allegedly restricting people from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria from buying property in the state.

“Xenophobia has no place in our country—and let there be no mistake, that’s precisely what SB 264 is,” said Noah Baron, assistant director of litigation at Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), in a press conference Monday. “This legislation echoes last century’s ‘alien land laws,’ which also restricted the property rights of Asian Americans on the basis of stereotypes and prejudice. The United States must not continue down this dangerous road; we know where it leads because we have traveled it before: during World War II when unfounded suspicions of Japanese Americans led to the forced imprisonment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans by the U.S. government and going as far back as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.”

Jamie Tian, president of AREAA, says that Governor Ron DeSantis and the rest of Florida’s legislatures have left an opening for continual discrimination, while also creating barriers of homeownership entry for possible AANHPI (Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders) homebuyers and sellers. This is the first time the organization has filed a lawsuit since its launch in 2003.

“This is a momentous day for AREAA and our 19,000 members as it is the first time we have filed suit to protect the rights of the AANHPI community,” said Tian early yesterday.

“My parents came to the U.S. from China as PhD candidates and they eventually bought a home in Irvine, California,” she explained. “I shudder to think about what my parents would have gone through today if they had settled in Florida.”

According to the Florida Senate, “The bill (Chapter 2023-33, L.O.F.) 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. Foreign countries of concern include the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Organizations claim SB 264 almost completely forbids Chinese citizens and those domiciled in China from buying any property across Florida. And, people domiciled in any of the other six countries listed in the bill cannot purchase property within 10 miles of critical infrastructure facilities or military institutions. This restriction covers 98.5% of residential land across Florida.

The federal Fair Housing Act “protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. Additional protections apply to federally-assisted housing.”

Homebuyers or renters under this act are to be protected, and given equal opportunity, no matter their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability status.

In the complaint, plaintiffs assert that the law is flawed, and it exemplifies clear xenophobia and discrimination.

“SB 264 is based on stereotyped and xenophobic generalizations and is transparently motivated by discrimination against people from the seven targeted countries based on their national origin. Throughout Governor DeSantis’s initial press conference about the bill he invoked insidious stereotypes, accusing Chinese people of ‘worming’ their way into American society.”

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