Northern California’s Destructive Wildfires Could Worsen State’s Housing Crisis
Northern California’s recent wildfires have burned homes at a greater pace than developers are building them, deepening a housing shortage that already has left millions struggling to find affordable places to live.
Five large wildfires over the past 14 months, with November’s Camp fire the most devastating, have destroyed nearly 21,000 homes across six counties. That total is equivalent to more than 85% of all the new housing built in those counties over the past decade, according to Construction Industry Research Board building permit statistics.
“We had a housing crisis prior to the fires,” said Bob Raymer, a senior engineer with the California Building Industry Assn. “This only exacerbated the crisis. I can’t even put a measure on it. Just wow.”
The devastation from the fires will be felt in the state’s housing market, state officials, academics and other experts said. Rebuilding in affected areas will depend on the pace of debris removal, the ability of property owners to secure payment from their insurance companies, the availability of construction workers and raw materials and a host of other factors. Such efforts could compete with housing and other development in the region, driving up the cost of building and slowing production in other parts of Northern California.
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