The extension of a statewide eviction moratorium by Governor Jay Inslee expands an overly broad policy and ignores the laws passed earlier this year to reconcile the needs of tenants and landlords.
Last week, Inslee extended an existing moratorium to September 30th to avoid a planned June 30th deadline. The moratorium was originally issued last year to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a survey by the US Census Bureau, an estimated 195,000 Washington tenants are behind with payments, and state officials estimate those lax payments amount to more than $ 1 billion.
Announcing the extension of the moratorium, Inslee said, “We don’t want to succeed in reopening our stores and then see a wave of homelessness.”
Indeed. But we also don’t want a wave of landlords to be pushed out of the industry. The majority of landlords in the country are individual investors rather than companies that can easily endure an economic downturn. According to the Census Bureau, around 23 million rental units are owned by small landlords across the country.
“Every month that goes by increases the risk of losing more and more rental homes, which ultimately threatens the availability of safe, sustainable, and affordable housing for all Americans,” said Bob Pinnegar, CEO of the National Apartment Association.
“Flawed eviction moratoriums leave tenants in insurmountable debt and housing providers hold their pockets as our nation’s affordability crisis turns into an affordable housing disaster.”
In addition to Inslee’s moratorium decision, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the extension of a national moratorium from June 30th to the end of July. Officials say this will be the final extension, but states can issue their own guidelines.
Washington’s moratorium was extensive from the start. It prohibits evictions for reasons other than imminent health and safety hazard, active criminal activity, or if the landlord intends to sell or occupy the property.
Other states have allowed eviction from tenants who cause property damage or have asked for some payments. Others have worked to protect small property owners from foreclosures.
Senate Bill 5160, passed this year and signed by Inslee, ended June 30th the Washington moratorium and introduced an updated eviction procedure. The bill was supported by all of Clark County’s Democratic lawmakers, as well as Republican MP Paul Harris.
Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, said, “By unilaterally extending the Washington eviction moratorium, Governor Inslee is ignoring the bipartisan work that went into Senate Bill 5160 at this session.”
That work included encouraging landlords to offer payment plans and recognizing the growing pressure on property owners who have seen fewer rental payments in the past 15 months. One landlord told the Seattle Times, “I have no desire to ever quit a tenant, but I don’t know what we’re going to do. We cannot have no income forever for that. “
Congress passed $ 46 billion in emergency aid for rents in two bills. But both tenants and landlords report that this help is slow to reach the people who need it.
Washington lawmakers have taken this into account when creating a detailed plan for dealing with a difficult situation that is reflected across the economy. Inslee should have paid attention instead of unilaterally changing the deadline.
The Columbian is a family-owned newspaper based in Vancouver, Washington.