SPOKANE, Wash. — City of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward is joining other local leaders in calling on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to reconsider his recent moratorium on home construction.
Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy order,” which was recently extended until May 4, shuts down non-essential businesses. Commercial and residential construction have been deemed non-essential under the order.
The order makes an exemption for "construction workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction) for all essential facilities, services and projects included in this document, and for residential construction related to emergency repairs and projects that ensure structural integrity."
This week, Spokane County Commissioners sent a letter to Inslee asserting their belief that construction of single-family homes should remain an essential function.
"Within Spokane County there is a significant need for affordable housing. By issuing a moratorium on development of single-family residences, it will have the effect of further distancing the affordability gap within our community,” the letter reads in part. “…. By enacting restrictions on single-family residential development, this is perpetuating the economic divide, impacting revenue sources for our constituents and local government agencies."
Woodward and other mayors from cities in Spokane County, including Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Cheney, echoed those sentiments in a letter of their own dated Tuesday, April 7.
"We are in this together, and so it is imperative we recognize the unique challenges that each community across the state faces during this time. With this in mind, we implore you to reconsider your recent designation of residential construction activities as a non-essential activity," the letter reads in part.
The letter also references eastern Washington's housing shortage, with less than a 2% rental vacancy rate.
"By enacting restrictions on single-family residential construction through the 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' order, the affordability gap and economic divide in our community will continue to grow during a time when unity and flexibility is so important," the letter continues.
Both letters from the commissioners and mayors also reference a memo from the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that says residential construction is an “essential critical infrastructure work function” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the local leaders say they have received assurance from developers of their ability to maintain safe social distancing while continuing residential construction services.
KREM recently reported on a Kettle Falls family of five whose reconstruction of their home after the 2018 Boyd’s Fire has been halted amid the “stay home” order.
For now, the Pickett family is continuing to make payments on a house they can’t live in.
"We've been behind on everything for a long time. We spent months trying not to lose the property that we're waiting to get rebuilt," Ian Pickett said. "It's financially taxing. I just wish the governor would see that."
The "stay home" order has also halted construction on Habit for Humanity homes in Spokane.
The other states that have temporarily banned residential construction at last check are New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan.