self-help build houseWhere:
Butte, Glenn and Tehama County, California

The devastating 2018 Camp Fire destroyed approximately 14,000 housing units in the tri-county area, and many of them were for low-income residents.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) is collaborating with Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) to rebuild the Paradise Community Village and to expand the area’s housing capacity.

In fall 2018, the Camp Fire became the most destructive wildfire in California history. It destroyed approximately 14,000 housing units in Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties. Up to 90 percent of the Paradise population was displaced. The Paradise Community Village development was destroyed. The village was a 36-unit rental housing development for households at 30-60 percent of the annual median income for Butte County. CHIP originally developed the village and used in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC) to finance the development.

The Camp Fire created huge holes in the affordable housing market for the tri-counties. Paradise was largely a retirement community prior to the Camp Fire, and 98 percent of residents lived in single-family homes. Nonprofit groups including CHIP and RCAC immediately began rebuilding efforts. Funding was secured from various sources, including the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund. The Paradise Community Village site has been cleared and construction was expected to begin in early 2020.

Retaining the low-income housing tax credits was a serious obstacle to rebuild the Village. LIHTC financing requires the units must be rebuilt within 25 months to keep their eligibility for the financing, which helps to make the units affordable to low-income families. RCAC is supporting federal legislation that will recognize communities affected by the Camp Fire as unique and exempt from the 25-month policy for LIHTC.

RCAC also is providing technical assistance and training to expand CHIP’s land development capacity throughout the region. RCAC worked with the state legislature to reclassify Paradise and other nearby communities as rural due to their decreased populations. This new classification allowed various rebuild projects to participate in the USDA Rural Development 502 Direct Loan program. One such project is for a 20-30 unit single-family subdivision in Paradise, that CHIP will develop. In the next several years, RCAC will expand our clients’ capacity to develop 50 to 60 new single-family homes in the tri-county region.