Housing prices cause gentrification concerns among locals, Camp Fire survivors

It is now eight months after the Camp Fire, and some are worrying they are being priced out of the living in the town of Chico.

Posted: Jun 25, 2019 11:31 AM

CHICO, Calif. - It is now eight months after the Camp Fire, and some are worrying they are being priced out of the living in the town of Chico.

Data from Zillow and Trulia all show rental prices trending up and to the right since the Camp Fire, and there's no sign yet of rates going down. 

According to Zillow's index, it cost about $960 to rent a one-bedroom space in November of 2018. Now, that price has increased to over $1,000 per month. 

Additionally, Trulia's data shows the number of rentals going down in Paradise after the Camp Fire, which could be due to the smaller supply of rental units available after most of the town burned. 

This data has some people feeling worried they won't have an affordable place to live. Julia Cheek, a resident of Paradise, said affordable housing feels like a thing of the past in Paradise. 

"Right now I'm homeless because of all this mess," she said. "Everybody is getting priced out."

Cheek lives out of her car, saying the cost to rent any place is too great for her to afford. And she's not the only one who thinks affordable housing is a problem. 

"For renters, it's very hard," said Jody Jones, mayor of Paradise. "I know people who owned rentals here in town and most are saying they are not going to rebuild because the cost to rebuild is so much higher than the rent they could charge."

Less supply might mean higher rental prices, but Jones said replenishing the housing and rental supply takes time. 

"It's really early. It's only been what, seven months?" she said. "We have issued 60 building permits, most for people rebuilding their own homes."

Jones also addressed affordable housing, which she says is dependent on a functioning sewer system. 

"That will take us at least three years," she said. "But we will be properly zoning land to encourage the production of multifamily housing once we get that sewer system."

She says multi-family housing is the best form of affordable housing as the cost to build can be spread across more people, which can lower the cost per family. 

Jones is encouraging locals to see outside developers and investors as conduits to rebuilding Paradise. 

"I understand those worries, but I think we need outside money to rebuild the housing stock, the rental supply, and in the end, I don't think it's going to be the boogeyman people think it is," she said. 

The town is applying for a number of grants to help make rebuilding more affordable and help homeowners who could not afford to rebuild. There is no guarantee the money will come through, but the town is making an effort. 

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