Rep. Todd Polinchock (R-Bucks) has introduced a bill that would open up real estate businesses in Pennsylvania, provided all transactions obey social distancing guidelines as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all real estate activities, while issuing some waivers on an ad hoc basis,” Polinchock said. “There is no consistency. While governors in New Jersey, California, Illinois and New York have issued shelter-in-place orders, they have all included exemptions for real estate.”
Polinchock — a former chairman of both the Suburban Realtors Alliance and the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors — questioned Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to deem the purchasing of a house as non-essential.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Polinchock said. “Food and shelter are two of the most essential elements in life. Citizens of the Commonwealth need to be able to find housing. Real estate licensees are equipped with the skills to complete the process and transactions safely and with minimal further risk to the health of the people of Pennsylvania.”
According to a news statement from Polinchock’s office, the governor’s business closure order has crippled the housing market and devastated the lives of the tens of thousands of Pennsylvania real estate professionals and their families as well as their clients — many of whom are now stuck with two mortgages or between closings with no place to live.
Polinchock’s bill comes closely on the heels of Republican legislation that would undo Wolf’s business closure orders, instead relying on CDC and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidelines for what businesses could operate.
Wolf issued an emergency order on March 19 requiring certain businesses to close their doors as coronavirus cases started to spread across the state.
The governor provided a system for certain businesses to apply for waivers, but some business owners and GOP lawmakers have recoiled at Wolf’s criteria, calling the measures draconian.
The legislation that would open state businesses passed both the Republican-controlled House and Senate, but was expected to be vetoed by Wolf, his office said Wednesday night.
The governor’s spokesperson, Lyndsay Kensinger, said that the bill is in direct opposition to social distancing measures backed by Wolf’s administration.
“As the administration has stated many times, irresponsibly going against the direction of the Secretary of Health and reopening businesses too early will only extend the length of the economic hardships created by the pandemic,” she said.
In a news conference Friday, Wolf said he would address reopening of the state’s businesses next week. He did not address the legislation that passed earlier this week.
“Over the next few weeks we will need to continue our social distancing efforts while we continue to plan for a phased reopening,” the governor said. “But its not the time to become complacent.”