This week’s decision by Gov. Jay Inslee to extend his emergency order halting rental evictions and freezing increases on residential rents through Aug. 1 is prudent given the dire financial situation many Washingtonians find themselves in due to the efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.
However, this — and other government mandates on the free market — should not be seen as a solution to the economic woes driven by the shutdown of businesses.
While providing renters security from eviction in tough times is appropriate, at least in the short run, we can’t ignore the reality that landlords are also feeling fiscal pain. If they don’t receive rent, they don’t have the cash to pay their bills, including making mortgage payments.
It’s best if tenants who are struggling financially can come to an amicable agreement with their landlords to pay as much as they can or defer payments. And this is exactly what Inslee’s office said as the moratorium on evictions was extended.
“The proclamation also encourages landlords and tenants to communicate in good faith with one another, and to work together on the timing and terms of payment and repayment solutions,” according to a news statement from Inslee’s office.
That, of course, is easier said than done when hard times hit. People are upset and scared — that includes the property owners.
Now that most of Washington state — 27 of the 39 counties — are in Phase 2 of reopening and within a few weeks of Phase 3 of the four-phase process, more and more people will be working. That should soon start easing the rental crisis many are facing.
But, as state House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, pointed out in the wake of Inslee’s extension of his order, a prolonged government intervention on rental could further exacerbate the already tight market for affordable housing.
That’s a serious problem in Walla Walla, which local officials have been trying to address for several years with some success. This current crisis will certainly slow, if not stop, progress — albeit temporarily.
Local governments must be watchful of the situation as each community is different. If state action creates local problems, then would be the time to act.
Walla Walla and Columbia counties seem to be opening businesses safely in Phase 2, which bodes well for the local economy.
Let’s all hope that Inslee’s latest extension of the eviction moratorium will be the last one required.