Senate proposal to reward immigrants who would buy $500k in housing

The down housing market is leading to some interesting ideas including one from two Senators which involves rewarding immigrants who are willing to buy expensive homes:

The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S.

The provision is part of a larger package of immigration measures, co-authored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), designed to spur more foreign investment in the U.S.

Foreigners have accounted for a growing share of home purchases in South Florida, Southern California, Arizona and other hard-hit markets. Chinese and Canadian buyers, among others, are taking advantage not only of big declines in U.S. home prices and reduced competition from Americans but also of favorable foreign exchange rates.

To fuel this demand, the proposed measure would offer visas to any foreigner making a cash investment of at least $500,000 on residential real-estate—a single-family house, condo or townhouse. Applicants can spend the entire amount on one house or spend as little as $250,000 on a residence and invest the rest in other residential real estate, which can be rented out…

International buyers accounted for around $82 billion in U.S. residential real-estate sales for the year ending in March, up from $66 billion during the previous year period, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Foreign buyers accounted for at least 5.5% of all home sales in Miami and 4.3% of Phoenix home sales during the month of July, according to MDA DataQuick.

This seems like it would be part of a discernible shift in the immigration conversation: primarily letting rich or educated immigrants into the United States.

The real question: does this really help the housing market? What kind of impact are we talking about – a 1% boost, 10% boost? As the article suggests, wealthy foreigners are already buying property in other countries. I’ve highlighted a couple of stories where wealthy Chinese buyers have purchased homes in New Zealand and Vancouver, Canada. When this happens, locals have mixed reactions. Would this proposed policy simply promote more foreign investment or would it push people to actually move to the United States and work here?

Would this bill also only help more wealthy areas, such as big cities or coastal/vacation regions? Would this primarily benefit people with bigger, more expensive homes?

Strong IP

Techdirt points to a story illustrating how strong IP enforcement comes around after going around:

We’ve been talking about how ridiculously aggressive Sony has been lately in enforcing its intellectual property rights concerning PS3s, so it seems like there might be a bit of karmic retribution in the fact that a shipment of PS3s has been seized in Europe as part of an ongoing legal fight with LG over patents covering parts of the PS3. I’m always amazed at how frequently companies who push for stronger and stronger enforcement of IP laws never seem to consider the consequences when those laws are directed at their own activities.

There’s been a lot of talk this week about patent reform since the Senate passed a bill 95-5 that would, among other things, move the U.S. to a first-to-file system similar to what most of the rest of world uses.  Some commentators think the proposed statutory reforms wouldn’t amount to much, though others suggest that the FTC’s recent report suggest that administrative reforms may be on the way.

Senate hearing on COICA

Ars Technica has a good wrap-up of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA):

The bill would give the government legal tools to blacklist a “rogue” website from the Internet’s Domain Name System, ban credit card companies from processing US payments to the site, and forbid US-based online ad networks from working with the site. It even directs the government to keep a list of suspect sites, even though no evidence has been presented against them in court.

If you’d like to watch the hearing yourself, video is available on the Senate’s website (note:  the actual video doesn’t begin until around the 20 minute 15 second mark).

David Brooks asks: will anyone want to run for political office?

In his latest column, David Brooks profiles Illinois Republican Senatorial candidate Mark Kirk. After going through his strong points and suggesting that it seems like Kirk would make an ideal candidate, he then goes into Kirk’s embellishment of his service record. And how the Illinois campaign has turned into what some people have called “the liar-liar campaign.”

And then Brooks brings up a logical point: if this is what happens in politics, who will want to run in the future?

The reality is, Kirk has led a life that is extremely impressive in most respects. The oddest thing about him is that he’s willing to go through this process. And the larger question is: In the years ahead, how many other talented people will be willing to do it, too?

While the prospect of doing good or being in power will always appeal to some, will the process become so unpleasant that the people who make good and reasonable candidates no longer desire to run? This is something to watch in the coming years.