A home is for sale in Glendale, Calif.
A home is for sale in Glendale, Calif. - 
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Jeremy Hobson: In Washington today, the Senate is introducing a new plan to help the housing market here in the U.S.. It involves opening the door for legal immigrants -- if they want to buy really pricey houses here.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

Mitchell Hartman: "The Canadians are coming!"

"And the Chinese!"

What they're coming for is to invest in depressed American real estate. Sales of U.S. residential properties to foreign buyers are up 25 percent in the past year.

To encourage more of the same, the Senate bill would offer a new homebuyer visa. To get in, a foreign buyer would have to spend at least half a million dollars cash on an American home. The goal is to boost demand in the U.S. housing market.

Andy Xie, an economist in Shanghai, says it'll definitely attract more wealthy Chinese.

Andy Xie: They want to have a foreign home at a reasonable cost. And Chinese property prices are much higher than in the U.S.

Xie says they don't want to work here -- it's probably for their kids.

Xie: If you have a property in the U.S. your children can go to school there. It is a big deal.

U.S. housing experts say the new visa won't hurt, but point out foreign sales are still only a drop in the bucket in the overall U.S. real estate market.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

Follow Mitchell Hartman at @entrepreneurguy