A sign of resilience hangs from a tree in a fire-destroyed neighborhood in Santa Rosa. It reads, ‘We will be back. Better! Stronger! Jenna Place Posse’.  Photo: Josh Edelson / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

By Mike McPhate
25 October 2017

(The New York Times) – With a vacancy rate of around 1 percent, Santa Rosa was a tough place to find a home before its recent disaster.

Then the Tubbs fire wiped out about 5 percent of city’s housing stock — roughly 3,000 homes.

For some of the displaced, the question is now: Do you stay?

Chris Coursey, Santa Rosa’s mayor, said the common reaction of fire victims has been a determination to rebuild. Even so, he added, “I would be naïve to say nobody is going to leave because of this.”

Many homeowners who held insurance policies will be able to erect new houses on their ash-laden properties. But the wine country’s zigzagging infernos didn’t discriminate between rich and poor.

Low-income people who were displaced now face a housing market where the median monthly rent hovers around $2,500, double the national average. The median home price is more than $600,000.

Scarce inventory in Santa Rosa, with a population of about 175,000 people, had already been helping to drive yearly increases of home prices in the 10 percent range, said Ruben Gonzalez, an economist with Keller Williams.

“So this further reduction in supply is just likely to exacerbate that trend,” he said.

Jennielynn Holmes, director of shelter and housing at Catholic Charities’ Santa Rosa office, said she was bracing for a growing wave of people forced into destitution by the housing sqeeze.

“My biggest fear,” she said, “is that we will lose the amazing community that we have because people can’t afford to live here.” [more]

In Ravaged Santa Rosa, to Stay or Go?

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