MINOT, N.D. — Back in April, when the coronavirus pandemic was still new, the North Dakota Democratic-NPL launched a partisan attack on Gov. Doug Burgum, accusing him of being out-of-touch for his refusal to issue a moratorium on evictions.
"The governor just said he expects working families to absorb the entire cost of the economic fall-out. Rent is due in two days and people aren't getting paid," party chairwoman Kylie Oversen said in a released statement. "It's not their fault, and they can be kicked out of their homes with only three days notice. At best, late fees will pile up that could set them back for years. The governor, who is a landlord himself, just told North Dakotans he has no understanding of the challenges they're facing."
It seems as though Oversen and her political party are the ones who lack understanding.
A recent news article, using data from the courts, shows evictions during the pandemic months of 2020 have been significantly lower than the same period in previous years.
This year, from March 11 to Aug. 1, there have been 806 evictions in North Dakota.
In 2019 that number was 1,144.
In 2018 it was 924.
The 2020 numbers have undoubtedly been tamped down by effective policies put in place by state leaders. A rent bridge program administered through the Department of Human Services has helped more than 300 North Dakotans across some 15 counties.
Still, where's the crisis?
The alarmists will tell you that evicting people during a pandemic is dangerous. "A normal eviction is a lot different than an eviction during COVID," Dane DeKrey from the North Dakota chapter of the ACLU has said.
All manner of commerce is still taking place. People are still living in apartment buildings across the state, interacting with one another in hallways and laundry rooms and parking lots.
Are we really to believe that moving out is some especially risky endeavor?
Or can we admit that this mythical eviction crisis was manufactured by the various interests promoting it for the sake of their own political goals?
For the Democrats, an opportunity to hurl partisan attacks at a Republican governor. For the socialists, a chance to put their ideas about abolishing private property into real-world action.
Moratorium proponents like to paint a picture of greedy landlords eager to stick it to tenants, even amid a public health emergency. Yet that narrative is undermined by stories like the one reporter Karen Tolkkinen's just told about a Villard, Minn., woman who saw that state's eviction moratorium prevent her from using legal means to rid herself of nightmare tenants.
I suspect many landlords in Minnesota could tell similar stories.
Even in times of crisis, markets must be allowed to function.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.