Monday, September 27, 2010
Gregory Crespi, has published Green cards for foreign house buyers: a way to help stabilize housing prices in the Tulsa Law Review.
In a recent and provocative Wall Street Journal editorial, Richard Lefrak and Gary Shilling have set forth the broad outlines of a proposed change in federal immigration law that would allow the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to award "green cards" - conditional and eventually permanent resident status that would allow those persons to live in the U.S. and seek employment here if they chose to do so - to foreigners who purchase houses in the U.S. Such a change would not impose any additional burden on taxpayers, and Lefrak and Shilling have argued that it would result in significantly increased demand for US housing that would help to absorb the current excess inventory of approximately 2.4 million unsold homes that is exerting further downward pressure on housing prices. If they are at all accurate in their expectations as to the likely popularity of such a visa program, this would surely help to stabilize housing prices more quickly and at higher levels. They also argue in their editorial that there is already in place a "blueprint" for such a program in the USCIS's current EB-5 investor visa program under which up to 10,000 visas per year can be granted to foreigners who invest sufficient funds in a U.S. business to create at least 10 new full-time jobs.
However, Crespi notes that the EB-5 program has been a "dismal failure" that would serve as a poor model for this new category of visa. Given the worsening climate on immigration, this proposal seems unlikely to be adopted. However, it certainly shows some creative thinking on how to bring some much needed demand into the housing market.
Also, given Chad's post for today, it seems like some of the commentators on the housing market are seeing immigrants as a potential saving force for the US economy - that's an interesting shift in the zeitgeist, which has some politicians calling for ever more restrictive reforms to the immigration system.
Jamie Baker Roskie