Dire need getting the attention it deserves

Conversations on housing shortage a step in the right direction

Attend the meetings:
The Tuesday ad hoc committee meetings begin at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 1 adjacent to the Chico City Council chambers. The final meeting—an Affordable Housing Conference—is on a Saturday, Sept. 28. Time and location TBA.

Mark your calendars, Chicoans. On Tuesday (Aug. 27), an ad hoc housing committee will hold the first in a series of public meetings related to our community’s needs—led by three of the Chico City Council’s progressives, Mayor Randall Stone and Councilmen Karl Ory and Scott Huber—that culminates in a city of Chico conference on affordable housing.

The contracted housing market is something this newspaper has been chronicling for years. As we reported in an in-depth piece back in 2017 (see “Squeezed out,” March 9), the shortage resulted from a combination of factors, including a lag in construction following the Great Recession and a lack of state and federal incentives for developers to build low-income housing.

Both the real estate and rental realms lacked inventory even then and the construction boom over the past couple of years has not made the gains to meet the demand.

Then came the Camp Fire. As everyone knows, it’s been slim pickings since the disaster displaced tens of thousands of residents. Real estate prices skyrocketed as a result, putting homeownership out of reach for even middle-income families. Meanwhile, the rental market was whittled down not only by the influx of newly homeless wildfire survivors but also by the landlords who put their properties up for sale.

The first two meetings of the ad hoc group (the second gathering is on Sept. 10) apparently will focus on the barriers to building—with local developers invited to speak to the issue. Affordable housing agencies and nonprofits are invited to discuss subsidized housing at the third meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Finally, the city of Chico has scheduled an Affordable Housing Conference for Sept. 28.

What we’re experiencing locally is not unlike what happened in Louisiana post-Hurricane Katrina, and there are indeed ways to provide the type of housing that would serve the area’s most vulnerable, experts tell the CN&R (see Ashiah Scharaga’s report on page 10). We encourage local leaders to reach out to them.

Chico and the greater Butte County region have long been deficient in low-income housing, but the need post-Camp Fire is dire. Nine-plus months after the disaster, many of the displaced—through no fault of their own—remain in unstable living environments or homeless. We’re looking forward to these conversations. This is progress.