CHICO, Calif. – The issue of finding sufficient housing for those impacted by the camp fire remains a pressing issue for builders, policy makers and of course, those still living in limbo. However, the housing crunch has also created a boom in at least one segment of the construction industry.
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough recently spent time with Carolyn Strange, a new Chico homeowner who has not had a new home in over thirty years. In fact, she says she has never had air conditioning! Strange had tears of joy as she walked into her new home, saying she was anxious to get settled again. She has spent the past eight months renting a home but is looking forward to having her own house.
Strange is one of more than two dozen Camp Fire survivors that real estate broker Carrie Welch has helped mov into new, Chico-based properties in recent weeks. She says she is proud to build beautiful houses and then drive by and know that her team is providing housing at what she considers a critical time to build houses for the region.
Many of the new homeowners are settling into smaller homes with little to no yard. It is construction known as infill; builders utilizing smaller acreage lots and putting up more condensed homes. In one case, an empty lot previously owned by an adjacent homeowner is now the location of 16 planned homes, after the developer purchased the land from the homeowner.
But what are the long-term impacts to the community of so many homes going into existing spaces on traffic, city services and the agricultural feel of the community? Broker Welch maintains infill construction is a plus for several reasons. She says developers are constrained by what is known as the green line; a boundary to protect agricultural land from development. She says when developers focus on existing spaces, they can utilize existing transportation, sewage and water lines, which is a more efficient use of land.
Kate Leyden is the Executive Director of the Chico Builders Association. She says creating sufficient housing for Camp Fire survivors is critical to the region’s economic survival. She says ‘no housing and employers stand to lose employees.’ She says those within the industry are ‘begging’ everyone to build as many houses as they possibly can so that the region can keep residents and hence; the workforce.
She says infill construction is booming. She points to at least one development in which the builder plans to place 34 homes on a 3.8 acre lot, nestled within an existing sub-division. And to those who question whether developers are holding back on building or if they are financially capitalizing on the aftermath of the Camp Fire? Leyden says no, instead saying builders cannot construct projects fast enough.
For new property owners like Strange, the efforts by local developers and builders is welcome. She says she had never intended to move from her Paradise home, but knew that if she ever did she wanted to find something small. She says the new, smaller houses and lots are perfect for her needs.
An item on the Chico City Council meeting for Tuesday, August 6, 2019, will address how broker Welch and the developer she works with, will craft a plan for funding annual operation and maintenance costs for storm water facilities and landscaping for at least one of the infill subdivision currently under construction.