Residential construction stalls in WA, plows ahead in OR

Coronavirus

Some construction outfits are calling on Washington state to designate residential construction as essential

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Some construction companies in Washington state are calling on Governor Jay Inslee to designate residential construction as an ‘essential business.’

Residential construction is still considered essential in Oregon. And while tight social distancing requirements have slowed projects down, many workers in the state remain on the clock.

But it’s a different story in Washington. Inslee’s most recent “Stay at Home” order restricts construction in the state to government projects and emergency situations where construction is needed for safety reasons. Road construction in Washington and Oregon is considered ‘essential’ and projects are still underway in both states.

Construction industry groups and some state lawmakers are now pushing Inslee to relax or clarify some of the temporary rules.

Washington Sen. Ann Rivers, who represents much of Clark County, told KOIN 6 News home construction is currently the top employer in her district so the shutdown is financially devastating.

A construction site in Portland, March 31, 2020. (KOIN)

“It simply doesn’t add up because a home construction site in Oregon is apparently safe enough but the same site in Washington isn’t somehow? That’s really very surprising to me,” said Rivers.

Oregon Sen. Kim Thatcher owns a construction company that operates in both Oregon and Washington. She recently suspended a project in Washington to keep her workers safe.

“The contractor decided to shut down the job because there were a lot of concerns from many employees that they were needlessly exposing themselves because they were in an area where a high number were being diagnosed,” Thatcher explained.

She said some construction jobs, like holding heavy objects in place, are nearly impossible without breaking the 6-foot social distancing guideline. Still, Thatcher said the crews are adapting.

Meanwhile, the Building Association of Clark County released a statement, saying the language in Inslee’s order does not provide clear guidance. They say they are working with state and local officials to obtain more clarification and guidance to the industry moving forward.

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