On some streets in Coffey Park, California, homes on one side were incinerated by the Santa Rosa wildfires, while those on the other side appeared untouched. Photo: Derek Watkins / The New York Times

By Louis Sahagun
9 November 2017

(Los Angeles Times) – For Sharon Ditmore, the signs of the holidays showing up in this city devastated by fire are both comforting and depressing.

Ditmore lost her home in the working-class neighborhood of Coffey Park and has been living in a friend's guesthouse. She can't help but think back to the Thanksgiving gatherings she enjoyed with family members in the home she and her husband had rented for nearly 30 years.

But in the future, she and the thousands of others who lost homes see nothing but uncertainty. With rents surging as high as $13,000 a month in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed 3,000 Santa Rosa homes, they are not sure they will be able to afford to stay in the increasingly expensive wine country city.

"My landlord said he plans to rebuild," said Ditmore, 62, who ran a day-care business out of her home. "If I can afford to move back, I will. But like so many others, I'll have to wait and see."

Hers was one of hundreds of homes that burned down last month in Coffey Park, where about 40% of the residents were renters. A website recently posted by Gallaher Construction Inc. of Santa Rosa, titled "Bring Back Coffey Park: Looking to Rebuild or Sell?," has only stoked concerns that a neighborhood reduced to ashes will be rebuilt as something vastly different.

A month after wildfires ripped through this city of more than 160,000, there are debates about the fate of working-class residents and undocumented immigrants, the shortage of available housing for displaced residents that has pushed rental rates into the stratosphere, and whether the firestorm will trigger an exodus of engineers, doctors and nurses, teachers, emergency responders, and agricultural workers — and with it an economic downturn. […]

As of Tuesday, amid the largest debris-removal campaign in state history, about 13,000 claims have been submitted by Sonoma County residents for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance of some kind, officials said. [more]

Burned up and priced out: Santa Rosa fire evacuees fear they can’t afford to return

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