Senate amendment could allow Chinese nationals to buy Florida real estate again

Clay Yarbrough introduced an amendment in Senate Rules this week that would reverse parts of a law passed last year.

A Senate committee quietly approved an amendment that could reverse a controversial ban on Chinese land ownership in Florida.

Sen. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican, offered a substitute amendment in the Senate Rules Committee that chiefly related to property rights on easements. The new language includes significant changes to a law signed last year that inhibits Chinese nationals from owning Florida property.

Most of the discussion of Yarborough’s bill (SB 814) centered on local concerns about condominium association disputes. But he explained while presenting a new amendment that the bill also will now revisit the foreign ownership matter.

It’s a change that appears to have the support of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, whose office stressed the new bill language won’t completely reverse attempts to block the Chinese government from amassing property in Florida.

“The amendment does not reverse the prohibition. It clarifies/further defines domicile and controlling interest,” reads an email from Katherine Betta, Passidomo’s spokesperson. “Existing laws regarding zoning would apply to Chinese nationals who are not foreign principles.”

Yarborough stressed the same when presenting the bill this week.

“The amendment addresses real property issues arising from last year’s legislation restricting foreign countries’ ownership rights,” Yarborough said. “Ownership restrictions are retained for governments, government entities and foreign corporate entities of concern: China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro.”

But a close look at the legislation itself shows the sections of the statute involving China will see significant changes. If approved, the bill would leave language in statutes that bars the Chinese government itself from having a controlling interest in any Florida real estate, but it would provide a number of exceptions for individuals living in China.

“Individuals granted asylum or having a U.S, visa for purposes other than tourism can purchase and own land subject to ownership restrictions,” Yarborough said.

“Some foreign investors in residential real properties are exempted, especially those investing in publicly traded real estate development companies. The changes aimed to welcome lawfully present individuals in the U.S. while expressing concerns about their government. “

The bill would also allow individuals to purchase land for “the primary purpose of development and sale of residential units” so long as they sign an affidavit to that effect with the state Commerce Department.

“An unintended consequence of Senate Bill 264 that passed last year is that developers can no longer buy land in Florida to build homes if they have foreign ownership in excess of 5%,” Yarborough said.

“This displaced foreign passive partners in major real estate transactions in Florida, a passive partner does not pose a threat to national or state security. They merely provide financing. They have no input on the design, construction or day-to-day activities of residential home building. In Florida. We have a housing shortage and the prices of homes continues to increase. We need to ensure that homes continue to be built.”

The legislation was debated for 20 minutes in the Senate Rules Committee, but talk was focused almost entirely around condominium association disputes and litigation that could be affected by other portions of the bill. No Senator discussed the foreign land ownership portion of the bill, and Yarborough waived his closing argument.

The bill has advanced through every committee stop in the Senate and heads now to the Senate floor for a vote.

A companion bill (HB 799) also cleared its final House committee on Feb. 7 and awaits a House floor vote, but does not include the language about Chinese nationals’ ability to buy residential real estate.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Dont Say FLA

    February 22, 2024 at 9:35 am

    Rhonda’s rolling back all their culture war nonsense so they can be put back into place for 2028’s campaign when Ron will again brag about how he just banned the evil Chineses from buying land in Florida. Again.

    LOL @ Rhonda. Your slip is showing. Again.

  • Marvin M.

    February 22, 2024 at 4:06 pm

    FL Legislators don’t do something without a reason. Especially if it’s going to go against the governor. So the question is, who lobbied them to do this? My only guess is real estate developers who may have lost sales. The legislators would have little problem I imagine going along with them, because the state desperately needs the revenue from the documentary stamp taxes that real estate sales bring.

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