California Facing a Housing Shortage as Wildfires Burn Down Thousands of Homes
Californians are facing a housing shortage as the state deals with a historic catastrophe. The California wildfires have already burnt down thousands of houses in Northern California, and despite firefighters making significant progress over the weekend, the fires are still continuing to force evacuations, leaving countless Californians homeless.
Those who have lost their homes are turning to their families and friends, staying with them temporarily until they find a more permanent solution.
Sonoma County and Napa County have been the most severely hit with the wildfires. Residents of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, in particular, are facing the brunt of the fire crisis. The city is facing the worst case of the housing crisis where most homes have turned to ashes and lodging options are now scarce. Meanwhile, those who are lucky enough to find a place to rent are facing absurdly high rents.
The two counties are close to San Francisco—particularly the city’s tech hub, Silicon Valley—and have seen a high demand for housing in recent years as a growing number of Californians began migrating towards the state’s biggest business hub for better employment opportunities. High demand and low supply caused housing costs to skyrocket in these counties. The wildfires are now worsening the situation, causing a further shortage of housing in the region.
California is known for having some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Rents are likewise equally unaffordable in most parts of the state. This is because the state already had a shortage of housing, even prior to the fires. The state’s unfavorable housing regulations put a cap on housing development within the state. In fact, California’s population reportedly grew at a faster pace than new housing constructions in the past years.
According to data from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), California added 544,000 households in the five-year period between 2009 and 2014. Meanwhile, only about 467,000 housing units were added in the state during the same period.
The California wildfires—the worst fire disaster the state has seen in its history—have so far claimed the destruction of an estimated 5,700 houses and buildings in the northern part of the state and about 100,000 people are estimated to have so far been evacuated from the fire zones.
The internal displacement of such a huge population is beginning to put pressure on the state’s ability to house them at a time when housing is already in short supply in California. The state officials are now presented with a grave challenge to find a timely solution to the state’s worsening housing crisis.
“California Fires Leave Many Homeless Where Housing Was Already Scarce,” The New York Times, October 15, 2017.