Green Cards for Foreign House Buyers: A Way to Help Stabilize Housing Prices
39 Pages Posted: 21 May 2009 Last revised: 25 May 2015
The continuing decline in US housing prices is making it difficult to effectively address our nation’s financial and economic problems. Any measures that would serve to help stabilize housing prices without requiring substantial government expenditures merit serious consideration. Richard Lefrak and Gary Shilling have recently set forth in the Wall Street Journal the broad outlines of a proposed change in immigration law that would confer conditional residency and eventually permanent residency upon foreign purchasers of US houses. In this article I present and discuss a modified version of their proposal that is more comprehensive and that seeks to avoid the problems that have plagued the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ existing EB-5 foreign investor visa program.
My proposal calls for a minimum equity investment requirement of $40,000, provides foreign purchasers of US houses with immediate conditional residency and then permanent residency after three years of ownership, initially limits the number of visas that can be granted annually to 85,000, and allows foreign purchasers to rent out these houses if they choose to do so. It does not call for any changes in the current US tax treatment of foreign source income, although certain changes in that treatment would make this program significantly more attractive to some potential foreign investors.
This proposal would in my opinion reduce the current excess supply of housing that is depressing housing prices by perhaps as much as 3.5% or more per year, and thus make a modest but significant contribution to stabilizing housing prices. The proposal does raise some legitimate concerns of both an economic and non-economic nature, but its potential benefits justify pursuing this approach despite those concerns.
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