California Fires Only Add To Acute Housing Crisis
By Thomas Fuller, Kirk Johnson and Conor Dougherty
The New York Times
Nov. 15, 2018
Photo courtesy The New York Times
Raging for over two weeks in November, California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire known as “Camp Fire” has left the entire state in eternal dismay: 81,000 evacuated homes, 10,132 incinerated homes, over 600 missing people, and 66 victims.
The impact of natural disasters such as mudslides, earthquakes, and wildfires is magnified in California as the state battles existing problems of climate change and most importantly, limited housing.
“We’ve had a huge increase in population and a huge increase in jobs, and we do not have anywhere close to the supply of housing to put people,” said Carol Galante, Donald I. Terner Distinguished Professor of Affordable Housing and Urban Policy and faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. “There is no margin when there is a disaster; there is no cushion at all.”
In temporary relief, afflicted individuals have found refuge in nearby motels, government shelters, and churches. Others have pitched tents in fields next to Walmart parking lots.
Furthermore, kind-hearted souls like Michael Cannon have opened up their homes. Cannon, a 69-year-old caregiver and musician, accommodates more than 11 people who have all been displaced from their homes. Cannon’s backyard is now also home to a construction site for another shelter for refugees.
A member of the construction crew views the project as a vital distraction. Paul Levin, 54, who lost his home to the fire in Paradise, contends building a new living space is in fact extremely therapeutic.
Galante reminds California of its failing response to the rising housing demand, especially in comparison to other states: In a span of five years, the state of New York supplemented their growing population with 80 percent more housing. In that same time frame, California only constructed a mere 467,000 housing units to the growth of 544,000 households.
In need of answers, suggestions have been made to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to supply trailers that people could live in while their homes were being rebuilt.
The consensus of experts stands untouched; California’s housing crisis and natural disaster share an unfavorable correlation.