Statement on HB 2412: Is Real Estate Really Essential?

Marc Stier |

We want to reiterate our opposition to HB 2412 even as amended, a bill to require the secretary of Community and Economic Development to issue waivers to allow real estate-related business activities to continue provided that they adhere to “applicable mitigation measures defined by the CDC…”

As we have pointed out, with regard to broader legislation aimed to undermine the preventive health measures required by Governor Wolf there are few commercial activities that do not involve people traveling outside their homes, coming into relatively close contact with others, and passing physical objects, including papers, between them. This certainly includes many activities connected with the buying and selling of real estate. Thus, these activities pose a danger to public health—and whether they should continue or not should be regulated by medical and scientific analysis of how fast the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading in particular locations. It is those conditions, not the particularities of any one kind of business or the rules they follow, that determine whether an activity is safe or not.

We also strenuously object to the continuing dodge used by those who seek to prematurely lift critical health regulations, that is, the appeal to CDC or OSHA or referencing some other federal regulations about how one or another kind of business can be conducted safely. We state again, in the strongest terms, that there are no such regulations and the claim that there are is fiction put forward by politicians and industry advocates to justify policies that are dangerous to the public health. There are no rules that can be followed that make the majority of economic activities safe if they are not carried out virtually through the internet.

The CDC and other federal agencies have held repeatedly that the only allowable business activities not conducted virtually at a time when a virus is spreading within a community are those that are essential. That is the central message of the CDC and has since been since the beginning of the pandemic.

The buying and selling of real estate is not essential. It should not be exempt from the general regulations promulgated by Governor Wolf for different communities in the state on the basis of sound medical and scientific advice.