Relman Colfax filed a lawsuit in federal court with co-counsel National Fair Housing Alliance and Asian American Justice Center against Florida officials responsible for implementing a 2023 law known as SB 264. The suit alleges that SB 264 discriminates on the basis of national origin because it restricts the ability of people from China and six other targeted countries to purchase homes in Florida.

As alleged in the complaint, SB 264 (1) prohibits anyone who is a “member of the People’s Republic of China,” a member of any political party in China, or domiciled in China (and not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) from purchasing property anywhere in Florida, and (2) restricts purchases of real property within ten miles of “critical infrastructure facilities” or military installations by “foreign principals” of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and Syria, a category that includes all non-U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents domiciled in those countries and all members of political parties in those countries. The punishments for violating the law are severe: SB 264 makes it a felony for anyone subject to the China-specific provisions to purchase real property in violation of the law. It makes it a misdemeanor for a “foreign principal” of any of the seven targeted countries to purchase real property in violation of the law. Real property acquired in violation of the law may be forfeited to the state.

The complaint alleges that the law was transparently motivated by discriminatory intent. During Governor DeSantis’s initial press conference about the bill, for example, he invoked insidious stereotypes, accusing Chinese people of “worming” their way into American society. The complaint also alleges that the law has a severe disproportionate effect on people from the seven targeted countries. The complaint further alleges that SB 264’s limitations on purchasing property that are created by the law are substantial, restricting “foreign principals” of the seven targeted countries from purchasing more than 75% of Florida’s land where more than 98% of its population lives.

Filed in the Southern District of Florida, the complaint alleges that the law unlawfully discriminates on the basis of national origin and has a disparate impact on the basis of national origin in violation of the Fair Housing Act and Article 1, section 2 of the Florida Constitution and violates the right to property guaranteed by Article I, section 2 of the Florida Constitution.

The Relman Colfax litigation team consists of Reed Colfax, Yiyang Wu, and Zoila Hinson, with paralegal assistance from Esmeralda Hermosillo. Our co-counsel are Scott Chang of the National Fair Housing Alliance, Niyati Shah, Noah Baron, and Shalaka Phadnis of the Asian American Justice Center, and J. Courtney Cunningham of J. Courtney Cunningham, PLLC.

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