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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gov. Jay Inslee announces eviction moratorium ‘bridge,’ plan to transition out by end of September

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has created a bridge program to serve as a transition from the state’s eviction moratorium.  (Ted S. Warren)

An eviction moratorium bridge program will go into place in Washington next week, replacing the state’s current moratorium with a new plan to help the state transition to new housing stability programs, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

The bridge will start Thursday – the day after the current eviction moratorium was set to expire – and run through Sept. 30.

But it is not an extension of the current moratorium, Inslee said.

“These are reasonable steps to provide a bridge to the fully functional programs that the Legislature fashioned,” Inslee told reporters.

Starting on Aug. 1, renters are expected to pay full rent, unless negotiated with their landlord. Landlords can take lawful action against a tenant if they’re not paying and also not seeking rental assistance. Landlords must offer a tenant a reasonable repayment plan before starting the eviction process.

Under the new plan, landlords are prohibited from evicting a tenant for past rent due from Feb. 29, 2020, to July 31, 2021, until there are operational rental assistance and eviction resolution programs in place in their county.

For past rent that is owed, landlords are prohibited from treating any unpaid rent as debt until the landlord and tenant have an opportunity to resolve the nonpayment.

The bridge plan does not prohibit rent increases, said Jim Baumgart, Inslee’s senior adviser for housing.

The state has had an eviction moratorium in place since March 2020, and it has been extended several times. The Biden administration on Thursday extended the federal eviction moratorium one more month to the end of July.

The state estimates there is about $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion in past-due rent across the state, Baumgart said. The federal and state money makes up for most of that, but it “is probably not sufficient to cover all of it.”

The Legislature passed programs, such as the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program and the Right to Counsel program, this past session, but Inslee said it will take time for the programs to be up and running.

Inslee said the Legislature created the programs, but not the systems to put them in place, and he’s had to create that system.

The state allocated $650 million of federal funds along with $500 million from the Department of Commerce to help renters, but Inslee said Thursday that local governments have had difficulty receiving and processing rental assistance applications.

With so many applications coming in, it’s been difficult for local government to get assistance out, Inslee said.

The effectiveness of these assistance programs will be dependent on local leaders stepping up.

“It’s not about a lack of money that is preventing us,” he said.

Earlier this month, the City of Spokane released $6 million in rental assistance for people struggling during the pandemic.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.