When multiple wildfires swept across California, burning hundreds of thousands of acres and destroying thousands of homes in the process, California’s housing crisis became immediately worse. While homeowners are still sorting through the wreckage and real estate investors are taking to the streets in hopes of helping homeowners who wish to simply walk away with cash from their leveled homes access that option, local governments are concerned with another aspect of real estate: housing. While most analysts agree the area’s markets will recover (although some speculate it could take three to five years thanks to labor shortages), in the interim, all those residents need somewhere to live or the cities risk losing population just when they need residents’ support the most.
For many municipalities, the solution may lie in approving new ordinances that will permit the building and installation of tiny homes. Last week, for example, Sonoma County, where one in every 20 homes burned, approved temporary, long-term use of RVs and travel trailers as well as some forms of “secondary dwelling units,” such as tiny houses. Secondary dwellings are legally defined as a small, second dwelling on the same grounds as the primary dwelling. Examples include basement apartments, garage apartments, tiny houses and cottages, and any structure on a foundation that cannot be bought or sold separately from the main home.
Interestingly, some of these tiny homes were already present in the headlines for escaping the fires. Images of the solid little houses surrounded by burned devastation have already proliferated across the internet. One of the Burning Man camps is sending shipping-container habitations to Santa Rosa as well, with camp members observing that the homes will do much more good in what they’ve dubbed “Oasis Village,” near Sonoma, than they will stacked in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert waiting for next year’s festival attendees.
The seven containers will house nearly 80 people, and were outfitted for the harsh desert environment celebrated by the Burning Man festival. All seven containers are between 40 and 50 feet long and have air conditioning, kitchenettes, shelving, and bunk beds. Originally a Santa Rosa homeowner reached out to Camp Epic about using one of the containers herself, but they have since been relegated for use by the Santa Rosa Anova Center for Education, which works with children on the autism spectrum. “There are families who need it more,” the homeowner said of the shift. She also noted that despite offering a full year’s worth of rent at $1,000 above monthly asking price on every home she could find on Craigslist in the area, she has yet to receive a single call back due, perhaps, to the reported 150 other applications in on every property.
“Inventory was constrained prior to the fire,” noted senior vice president of the Santa Rosa Pacific Union International real estate agency Rick Laws in commentary to CNN. “Now, we have lost about five percent of the housing stock,” he said. “So that’s huge.”
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Carole Van Sickle Ellis is the editor-in-chief for Think Realty Magazine. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.