PARADISE (CBS13) — Thousands of wildfire victims forced out of their homes in Paradise are still stuck without a place to live in the middle of a severe housing shortage.
Three California wildfires in the last two months destroyed more than 20,000 structures. The state’s most deadly and destructive wildfire was the Camp Fire in Butte County.
Tabatha Brewster and her two daughters are starting over from scratch. Their home was one of the nearly 14,000 destroyed in the Camp Fire.
The family is using money from FEMA to move from motel to motel. Brewster wants to keep the girls in their school, so, for now, she drives them an hour each way. She hoped to find a permanent home nearby.
“There’s nothing to be had — there’s no place to live,” Brewster said.
Ed Mayer is the executive director of the housing authority in Butte County.
“As of the date of the crisis, there might be 1,000 units in Butte County that were available,” Mayer said. “All of those units are spoken for now.”
California was already facing a housing shortage of almost a million and a half units before disaster struck. With the loss of tens of thousands of homes to wildfires, the state is simply unable to absorb new homeowners.
Mayer said this disaster could triple the number of homeless people in his county to 6,000.
“We’re playing musical chairs with housing. It takes someone to move out of a unit for someone to secure it…. Until someone moves out, there’s nothing available. So everyone’s just waiting,” Mayer said.
FEMA has approved roughly $27 million in housing grants for Camp Fire survivors and plans to bring in 1,300 temporary homes. But Mayer says rebuilding Paradise will likely take 10 to 20 years. An unthinkable timeline for Brewster and her daughters.
“I think every child needs a little bit of stability and there’s no stability,” Brewster said. “It makes me feel like a bit of a failure that I couldn’t find something fast enough.”