MINOT, N.D. — Of all the extraordinary (and often prudent and necessary) economic interventions made by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic, the various moratoriums on evictions made the least sense.
Gov. Doug Burgum never issued such a policy here in North Dakota, despite hot-headed calls from some activists and politicos.
The state Supreme Court did, for a short period, before apparently coming to their senses and realizing they are not the executive branch of government and had no business implementing that sort of policy.
(Their pause on eviction proceedings was supposedly about protecting the courts from the virus, an administrative decision well within the purview of the justices, but that justification was undermined by the fact that only residential evictions, and not commercial evictions or many other similar types of proceedings, were allowed to go forward.)
As we near the expiration of that policy, we're going to be hearing a lot from activists who will argue that its end is some cruel injustice perpetrated on tenants who aren't paying their rent despite $45 billion in specific rental assistance from the federal government, billions upon billions more in state-level aid, trillions in overall economic relief implemented by the federal and state governments, and an economic environment where job openings are far more plentiful than workers willing to fill them.
We've talked a lot about expanded government safety nets driving the worker shortage — richer unemployment benefits undoubtedly remove the impetus for gainful employment for some — but how much of that shortage is also driven by the millions of Americans who aren't paying rent right now?
Even more fundamental to this debate is the obnoxious idea that landlords are somehow obliged, at the government's behest, to allow people to use their property without being paid.
That's an egregiously ridiculous situation.
Do we force grocery stores to give away their products for free?
Are car dealerships and clothing stores required to let their customers drive off in new cars, or new clothes, without paying?
Food and transportation and clothing are no less important than shelter, and yet for some reason, amid the political madness that has plagued us alongside the COVID-19 outbreak, it was decided that landlords should provide housing to people who haven't been paying for it.
Again, much of the government intervention during the pandemic was necessary. There is nothing inherently wrong with safety net policies. But, we could have done many things to help Americans keep their housing without resorting to denying landlords access to the eviction process for those refusing to pay.
Giving Americans money to pay their rent, as fraught as that sort of policy can be, is still preferable to denying property owners relief for non-payment in the judicial system.
We must let landlords get back to business as usual.
If there is a need for ongoing assistance for renters — and I'm dubious given the economic recovery we're seeing all around us — we can have that debate. But the eviction moratorium must be allowed to end.
It should never have been implemented in the first place.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.