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Pressure mounts for Gov. Inslee to restart private construction projects

Private construction workers are asking that they be considered essential during the state's stay-at-home order. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Pressure is mounting on Gov. Inslee to relax his stay-at-home requirements for the construction industry. He is getting letters from developers, lawmakers, and others saying private construction is just as essential as public projects.

How Washington’s stay-at-home order will affect construction projects

While most large public projects have been halted — including state road projects and some Sound Transit work — public construction projects are on Gov. Inslee’s “essential” list. Building homes is not, a double-standard contractors believe isn’t fair.

That being so, Republican state Rep. Chris Corry has asked the governor to allow private construction to begin again.

“If you say that KeyArena can continue but my builder building a house for a family can’t, there’s something wrong there,” he said. “I would argue that if the public sector can do that job safely the private sector can do it just as safely.”

Rep. Corry went so far as to include a safety plan from an environmental consulting firm. He believes it’s vital for our economy to get construction workers back on the job.

“I’m hopeful we can look at the big picture,” Rep. Corry said. “We can protect the lives of people across Washington state, but we also need to protect our economy. If we want to win this battle long term, it is going to take making sure we have an economy in place that can help cover the costs as we come through this.”

He said most contractors were already taking extra safety precautions and limiting contact at job sites before the stay-at-home order took effect.

Rep. Corry said there are some unintended consequences of stopping private construction. Families waiting for their homes could lose their loans, and even face extra rent or mortgage fees if they can’t move as planned.

“We have homes that need to be completed,” he said. “We have a variety of construction projects that the private sector are doing that are essential to both the people of the state as well as the economy of the state.”

Full details on what’s allowed under Inslee’s stay-at-home order

Eagle Creek Land and Development is one of the other groups sending letters to the Gov. Inslee’s office, also asking that private construction to be considered essential.

It says the 24,000 single-family homes built in Washington in 2018 contributed over $8 billion to state’s economy. It also warns that halting home construction will make the current housing crisis worse. It cited further concerns that unattended job sites will be targets for thieves, considering the amount of equipment and materials that have had to be left behind when job sites were closed.

Gov. Inslee recently relaxed the stay-at-home order for real estate brokers, allowing them to continue in-home showings as long as social distancing rules were followed.

The private construction industry is hoping Inslee will do the same for it.

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