January 2021 Eviction Moratorium and Reopening Update
On Thursday December 31, Governor Inslee released the language of the extension to the eviction moratorium. The moratorium is extended to March 31, 2021. As predicted, the language provides few changes and effectively leaves the status quo moratorium originally enacted March 16, 2020 and vastly expanded in April 2020.
The industry’s ability to make changes to, and ultimately terminate the eviction moratorium will occur through the legislative process which begins on Monday. It is our goal to provide a path to a return to normality through legislation.
One notable change in the moratorium: housing providers are now able to access rental assistance on behalf of tenants. As the Emergency Rental Assistance Program is refunded and amended, we will provide further information on how housing providers can access available rental assistance across the state.
Additionally, we continue to monitor the release of federal rental assistance dollars (approximately $500 million) to Washington and where and when this money will become accessible to you and to your residents. Based on guidance and rules established by the US Dept. of Treasury, the state may be required to create a new rental assistance program to distribute this funding.
New Reopening Plan
The Plan, called “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” creates a new phased system to reopening Washington’s economy. All counties (grouped into seven distinct regions) start in Phase 1 and have the opportunity to increase to higher phases upon meeting certain medical thresholds.
One of the biggest changes is that decisions about phases will be made by region, rather than county-by-county. Here, in the Seattle metro region, King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties will be grouped together as the Puget Sound region to reflect how interconnected the three counties are. Kitsap County will be part of the Northwest region, along with Clallam, Jefferson, and Mason Counties. You can see all eight regions here.
Phase 1 will look very similar to today’s restrictions, with slight changes. Certain restrictions will be lifted Jan. 11, including outdoor live entertainment with timed ticketing for small groups, and appointment-based fitness programs for single individuals.
To move on to Phase 2, which will generally allow up to 25% of indoor occupancy, including indoor dining and fitness centers, regions will need to meet four metrics:
- A 10% decreasing trend in case rates
- A 10% decrease in COVID-19 hospital administration rates
- An ICU occupancy rate that is less than 90%
- A test positivity rate of less than 10%
Phase 2 will also allow sports competitions to resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies will be able to increase capacities from current limit.
To remain in Phase 2, regions must meet at least three of the following metrics:
- Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population
- Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population
- ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90%
- COVID-19 test positivity rate of <10%
For more information about guidance for given activities, please see this post from the Governor’s office.