Asian & Pacific American Heritage Month is over, but the impact isn’t

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AREAA President Jamie Tian offers insight into the organization’s efforts to fight barriers to homeownership and affordability.

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As Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, it’s essential to reflect on its significance. Since 1977, AANHPI Heritage Month has recognized the significant role that AANHPIs have played in our shared history and culture.

For the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AAREAA), this AANHPI month has been more than just a commemoration; it’s been a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by AANHPI individuals in accessing homeownership and that there’s still much more work we have to do.

Just minutes into the May 6 start of AREAA’s annual Diversity and Fair Housing Summit, I was privileged to announce that we had joined with several other organizations to file a fair housing discrimination suit in federal court in Miami challenging Florida’s SB 264, a state law that greatly restricts people from China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria from purchasing real property in the state. The law almost completely prohibits Chinese citizens and people domiciled in China from buying property in the state. 

This was a momentous moment for AREAA and our 19,000 members as it was the first time in our 20 years that we filed suit to protect the rights of the AANHPI community.

How SB 264 opens the door for discrimination

We believe that SB 264 must be defeated and that Florida legislators and Governor DeSantis have wrongly targeted Chinese, and other select groups of immigrants. They have opened the door for greater discrimination while creating increased barriers of homeownership entry for prospective AANHPI homebuyers and sellers. 

My parents came to the U.S. from China as PhD candidates, and they eventually bought a home in Irvine, California. I shudder to think about what my parents would have gone through today if they had settled in Florida. It’s infuriating to realize we now live in a reality where government leaders are putting homeownership out of reach for AANHPI people in Florida.

While we have joined the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Housing Opportunities Project for Excellence, Inc., and the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches in the Florida lawsuit, we are painfully aware that there are copycat bills out there. In fact, there are 78 discriminatory bills at the state level that directly threaten AANHPI homeownership

AREAA’s 3-point plan to minimize housing disparities and discrimination

This fury lit a fire under AREAA and made us determined to put a stop to these unfair laws. We used May to fight back with our three-point plan that works to minimize housing disparities and discrimination faced by AANHPI people. This included our recent visit to Capitol Hill where we met with hundreds of Congressional leaders and their staff and shared our plan:

  • Fight against the current anti-AANHPI rhetoric and rally behind the Preemption of Real Property Discrimination Act (HR3697), which preempts any state law that prohibits or restricts the purchase of real property by an individual based on their citizenship at the state level to further safeguard against anti-Asian land laws. 
  • In response to a growing need from middle-to-low-income AANHPI homeowners for solutions that allow them to affordably live in multigenerational housing, AREAA is actively pushing for legislation that expands financing and provides more affordable solutions for all types of homeowners. 
  • AREAA also addresses unequal real estate valuations between neighborhoods of different ethnic subgroups. This is especially significant as generational wealth transfers are important for funding education and home purchases in future generations. Data shows that bias in appraisals may strip this opportunity from certain minority groups. To combat this, AREAA is lobbying Congress to consider bills that reduce bias within the appraisal industry. 

It was so exciting to see more than 300 AREAA members showing a strong desire to make a change. It truly warms my heart to see our community so riled up with a desire to make a difference in fair housing and affordability.

I strongly encourage the real estate industry to participate in AREAA’s path to equal homeownership. Whether you’re Asian or not, you can be a member, you can learn with us, meet new people, and play a critical role in ensuring that so many wonderful and hard-working citizens have equal access to homeownership.

Jamie Tian is the CEO and co-founder of RealiFi Realty and the national president of the Asian Real Estate Association of America. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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