2023 Campfire Rebuild Statistics
As our community commemorates the 5-year anniversary of the Camp Fire, we feel it’s important to be mindful of the impact of homes and businesses lost, how that affects our regions overall economy, and understand where our recovery is at today in terms of rebuilding.
Even if you don’t build in Paradise, it’s important to remember that rebuilding the housing lost in the fire is critical to our region’s Tri-County economy. The 2021 Camp Fire Regional Economic Impact Analysis found that “The Region lost about 10 percent (and Butte County lost about 14 percent) of its housing supply in the Camp Fire, exacerbating a housing market fraught with challenges that existed before the Fire.” Further it states, “The key disruption to economic activity is the reduction in the available workforce, as well as the reduction in consumers of the services provided by these workers and the remaining Tri-County regional workforce. Available information suggests that the Fire resulted in the loss of many middle-income workers who are unlikely to return, which may result in a demographic distribution more heavily skewed to lower- and higher-income groups. The ability of the Region to replace workers and re-balance income distribution hinges on its ability to plan for and successfully construct an adequate supply of new, affordable housing, particularly in Butte County, including Chico, Oroville, Paradise, and other unincorporated areas of the county.” To put it simply, the study found the longer it takes for the homes and businesses to be rebuilt, the greater the impact on our tri-county region.
At the end of October, 3,055 homes (21% of the homes lost) have been rebuilt; 2,577 in the Town of Paradise, 478 in Butte County. As shown in the table below, annual construction peaked in the 3rd year following the Camp Fire and has been declining into the 5th year.
Let’s break that down more:
The total number of units under construction stayed above 1000 from July of 2020 through July of 2022.
This activity leads us to ask the question, who is rebuilding? Largely, in the total burn scar, its former residents returning. The exceptions came in February of 2022; 13 rebuilds were for former residents, 15 were stick built spec homes, and July 2002; 26 were for former residents 2 of which put the completed home on the market, 25 were stick built spec homes.
Specific to Paradise, the speculation market began to shift in late 2021 and into 2022 when we saw spec homes surpassing those being rebuilt for survivors for the first time in February 2022.
Price per square foot for spec homes since October of 2020 has ranged from a low of $248 / sq. ft. in January of 2023 to a high of $331 / sq. ft. in January of 2021.
Wrapping up housing, we want to give a big shout out to the Town of Paradise’s Housing Department! VCE and several of our member companies take part in their monthly housing committee meetings. Kate Anderson and her team have done an amazing job of navigating the various Federal and State loan programs to get families into homes. They are currently working on an infill grant which can provide construction loans to builders constructing homes for individuals and families that qualify. The Town is currently working on securing these funds and anticipates them being available in early 2024.
So, what’s next? BIG projects! The Town of Paradise recently put the Sewer Extension project out for bid. This project is estimated to cost $233,000,000 and is being issued as a one-step solicitation using the Progressive Design-Build delivery method; the Town intends to use a phased approach to design and construction that will include as least two phases, though there may be more, at a minimum Phase 1 will include the design and preconstruction services that allow for the completion of a Basis of Design Report (BODR) and preparation of a cost and schedule proposal for the next necessary phase (s) to progress and ultimately complete the project. Construction on the Export Pipeline and Core Collection System is anticipated to begin in summer of 2024 with construction on the Extended Collection system continuing through 2056.
Additional infrastructure projects include utility undergrounding which is currently underway and is expected to be completed by 2025. 21 early warning sirens have been installed and are being tested on the 1st Saturday of each month. Further, all public roads in Paradise are scheduled to be repaved over the next 3 years through FEMA and FWHA funding. Butte County has extensive infrastructure projects planned and funded through 2027 that total just over $100,000,000 with an additional Camp and North Complex road repair projects scheduled, but unfunded, totaling just over $43,000,000. Further, the City of Chico recently reached a settlement with PG&E to fund additional projects related to Camp Fire restoration.
CDBG-DR aka Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery. In the wake of the Camp Fire, 3 buckets of CDBG-DR funding were awarded to our local municipalities, the first 2 came in the form of Housing and Infrastructure funding which totaled more than $773,000,000. The last piece of CDBG-DR funding is for Economic Development to the tune of just over $18,000,000 and is specifically tagged for Workforce Development. The Town, County, and many non-profit and education partners have been meeting for years to collaborate on a community training facility to be housed at Paradise High School with the Town of Paradise taking lead on the application which is anticipated to submitted in January of 2024. Valley Contractors Workforce Foundation will provide construction training opportunities at this facility and is looking for feedback from our members on what they need regarding workforce development training opportunities.
VCE has been deeply involved in Camp Fire recovery since day 1 of the fire and has taken action to address construction workforce shortages in forming our Mobile Construction Training program which is currently constructing our second home while recruiting and training new workers to the trades. From manning booths at the Community Resource Center, to hosting a tool drive for those in the trades that lost the means to their livelihood, to testifying at the State Capital for legislation that may ease the road in rebuilding, and all the meetings in between. It’s been a long and pot-hole filled road for the past 5 years, but this work is crucial, not only in rebuilding homes and lives, but to the economic vitality of our Tri-County region. No matter where you work or what you do, recovery affects you, our valued members. Thank you for making this work possible!
By Amy Rohrer, VCE Executive Director