Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

The West’s wildfires collide with its housing crisis

By Laura Bliss, Bloomberg CityLab, September 18, 2020

This year’s wildfires in Oregon and its neighbors “have burned nearly 5 million acres, killed at least 27 people, and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate up and down the West Coast. The blazes ravaging several populated areas — a ‘once in a generation’ crisis for Oregon, according to Governor Kate Brown — have also magnified the region’s housing crisis. While California routinely makes national headlines for high housing costs and homelessness, fast-growing Oregon has an acute housing shortage too: Before the fires, the state fell short of housing need by an estimated 155,000 units.

“Rick Harris, a longtime real estate agent in the Rogue Valley, believes that ‘the vast majority’ of low-to-moderately priced housing was destroyed in Jackson County. Supply was already scant, with a rental vacancy rate hovering at a razor-thin 1 percent before the wildfires and an eviction moratorium due to Covid-19. …

“A population boom fueled by out-of-state migrants, especially from California, has dialed up prices in these economically mixed communities. What little housing has been produced has been mostly geared towards higher earners. Here as throughout the West Coast, the consequences were already visible in a growing homeless population, to which the fires may be adding. …

“Talent and Phoenix were some of the last places Oregonians expected to burn. … The scale of this year’s devastation may call for a major shift in how experts define wildfire risk, and could carry implications for where people can rebuild.

“It might not change where they want to rebuild, however.”

Read the full article here. 

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