North Bay Recovery Highlights Importance of Housing, Safety Net
November 7, 2017
By Sarah Garmisa-Calinsky
Now that the tragically destructive fires in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties have been contained, the hard work of rebuilding will begin. At the forefront of this effort will be public workers from the cities and counties most affected.
The fires in the North Bay, as well as those in Santa Cruz County, destroyed over 8,000 structures, including thousands of homes. While many affected residents are local property owners, we are still waiting for estimates of the short- and long-term effects for many of the regions’ low-income renters, migrant workers, and other vulnerable populations. Especially in Sonoma and Napa counties, where housing prices and the cost of living have grown exponentially, the road ahead will be long and difficult for many.
Victims displaced by the fire must find a new place to live near their jobs and schools in regions where there was already a housing crisis. In the absence of policies or laws to curtail surging rents, we can anticipate that when rebuilding happens, most renters and low-income residents won’t have the ability to return to their original homes and neighborhoods.
According to public officials, the housing situation is expected to be so dire that up to 8,000 displaced residents will leave Sonoma County. In Santa Rosa, housing inventory and vacancy rates were already low and now 5% of the housing stock is gone. It has been reported that Santa Rosa’s housing gap, which was already at 1,500 units over the next three years, has tripled.
Our clients in the affected counties, including public servants from our safety net, housing, and reentry systems, were frontline workers during the tragedy and will play an integral role during the recovery. Many staff themselves were affected by these fires.
RDA has worked with vulnerable residents, and those that serve them, for decades. We are steadfast in our commitment to partnering with our clients in the affected communities in the near future and in the long term to help rebuild the systems that serve, galvanize, and support those that need it the most.
One Small Planet
It is impossible to look back over the events of the past year and not viscerally feel the interconnectedness between ourselves, our families, our communities, and the rest of the world. The struggles of other countries, even other states, that once felt like distant concerns confined to the evening news now take on a different meaning. The pandemic and its economic devastation; the urgent cries for racial justice; the ever-increasing threat of wildfires, hurricanes, and other climate-change-driven disasters: these challenges belong to all of us.
Moving from Crisis to Chronic
Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are still operating in crisis mode. We are exhausted, and the items we put on the shelf are starting to stack up. It’s time to revisit our triage plans, no matter how planful or ad hoc, and re-evaluate our priorities and resources.