As the news cycle shuffles through another period of President Donald Trump’s latest brash of words, I’m still focused on the cacophony to emit from his mouth recently. While speaking with lawmakers about immigration, Trump derailed the meeting by calling African and Central American countries a “shithole.”
It was crass and embarrassing, to say the least. Since the president’s infamous statement, many immigrants, and Americans as well have called on the president to apologize for his comment. Being from a country that the president labeled with such negative vigor, I’m appalled that one man can devalue the progress we’ve made in this country with one word meant to represent his xenophobia.
I was born and raised in Georgetown, Guyana, a place called the ‘Garden City of the Caribbean’ due to its seaside beauty. My family’s beginnings were meager; we lived in a 10-foot-by-10-foot home with no electricity, no running water, and a dirt floor. I emigrated to America at the age of 10 and moved to the Bronx, New York to be closer to family and for better opportunities.
Since coming to this great country, my wife and I have raised two wonderful children, and I was elected Property Appraiser of Orange County. My native land helped shape me into the man that I am today as well as how I view the world. The president’s comments aren’t representative of America as a whole and certainly don’t describe West Indians.
But another negative facet of Trump’s unfortunate statement I’m afraid will be felt financially. As property appraiser, I’m privileged to value property in this county for tax purposes. We assess everything from single-family homes to duplexes and theme parks.
Each summer, we release best estimate numbers to municipalities in Orange County to help them set millage rates and budgets for the next fiscal year. In addition to local governments, I give this information to the public for transparency and to let them know what’s happening in real estate in Orange County during my annual State of Orange County Real Estate event.
Here I also present information pertaining to foreign investment. In 2016, foreign investment into residential real estate in Florida was close to $20 billion. Nearly 12 percent of those dollars came to the Orlando Metropolitan area.
Florida is a magnet for tourists and foreign investment because of our friendly tax environment and sunny weather. In 2017 that number increased to $24.2 billion, and foreign investment in the Orlando area was more than $2.6 billion.
What’s interesting about this is who’s buying homes in Florida. Can you guess the most popular country of origin for foreign investment in Florida? Yep, an area that the president believes is deplorable: Brazil. Thirteen percent of all residential foreign investors are from Brazil, 10 percent are from Venezuela, 4 percent are from Colombia and 2 percent are from Haiti.
My trepidation is that the president’s leadership and inability to remain focused sonically will start to undo some of the financial interest that many investors have in the great state of Florida. Our neighbors to the south of us have sunk billions of dollars into our local and state economy, and my hope is that many who enjoy the Florida housing market will not turn to investments in other states due to the words of the leader of this great nation.
We’re better because of who we are, not because of who represents us and our interests.
The president was wrong for what he said, and not only that, Republican lawmakers should do a better job of calling him out on his racism. My great hope is that his behavior doesn’t deter the progress we’ve seen in the Florida housing market since the end of the Great Recession.
Rick Singh is the elected Orange County Property Appraiser.