Senate housing bill would sell excess properties to foreign investors

Two senators introduced Thursday a bipartisan proposal to attract foreign investors to buy up an excess supply of homes that is weighing down the U.S. housing market. 

Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeExclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks MORE (R-Utah) announced a plan that would offer a three-year residential visa to foreign homebuyers who invest at least $500,000. At least $250,000 must be spent on a primary residence where the visa holder will reside for at least 180 days out of the year while paying U.S. taxes.  

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The proposal has the possibility of clearing out "a very significant numbers of homes" to boost the sector that is "dragging our economy down," Schumer told reporters Thursday during a conference call. 

"It won't solve [the problem] single-handedly but it will make a real dent," he said. 

In brief remarks before leaving on a flight, Robert Toll, head of Toll Brothers Builders, called the plan "novel and a good idea to help housing."

Applicants would be subject to standard criminal and national security background checks and, once approved, would not be able to receive government benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  

"Our housing market will never begin a true recovery as long as our housing stock so greatly exceeds demand," Schumer said. 

The program would not serve as a path to citizenship. 

Warren Buffett has supported the concept of enticing foreign homebuyers previously, Schumer said. 

The concept is part of a broad immigration package aimed at boosting foreign travel and investment in the United States. The bill would, for example, reduce barriers for Canadian and Chinese visitors whose consumer spending provides a lift to the U.S. economy. 

The bill would also expedite priority visa applicants, introduce video conferencing as a means to screening foreign nationals and make major changes to visa procedures for U.S. allies in the fight against al Qaeda.

 “This bill supports a free-market method for increasing demand for housing at a time when so many working-class Americans are underwater on their homes, are desperate for prices to rise again and big-government programs have failed to work," Lee said.