Real Estate Pros Offer Road Map to Rebuild Wildfire-Ravaged Town

An aerial photograph overlooking a fire-ravaged neighborhood.

© Jason Arbour / EyeEm - EyeEm / Getty Images

The Counselors of Real Estate wants to help rebuild an entire town, and it has a plan for that. CRE, an organization of leading commercial property professionals, is proposing a real estate road map to help rebuild Paradise, Calif., and expedite the redevelopment process of the town that faced the 2018 Camp Fire, the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history. The wildfire burned across more than 150,000 acres and leveled nearly 19,000 buildings over just 17 days in Paradise and the surrounding area. It left about 30,000 people homeless.

The CRE Consulting Corps’ report focuses on immediate action steps to rebuild Paradise’s housing stock within the next three to five years. It also offers a plan to help rebuild commercial properties and services that had been lost in the wildfire.

A picture of the welcome sign to Paradise, Calif., reading, "Welcome to Paradise" and "Rebuilding the Ridge"

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“The road to rebuilding is paved with a number of challenges, but we see great promise in Paradise with the adoption and implementation of the right steps,” says Steven R. Norris, CRE, part of the CRE Consulting Corps’ team who is leading the assignment. “We want to build on the hard work and vision of the town of Paradise and the Paradise Association of REALTORS®. Our goal is to honor the people of Paradise for their remarkable courage and determination by giving them catalytic ideas to spur thoughtful, responsible, and sustainable redevelopment sooner rather than later. In doing so, we also hope other communities can reference the ideas in the report to consider how they might future-proof against catastrophes or, in the case of a devastating loss, rebuild.”

The Plan’s Highlights

The report includes some of the following suggestions:

  • Hire at least one private sector individual with extensive experience to evaluate proposals and real estate development opportunities. This individual can help expedite rebuilding efforts via public-private partnerships in coordination with other agencies and private sector developers and landowners.
  • Enact a resolution to strengthen property insurance coverage, such as creating a prototype California wildfire area insurance program, establishing pre-fire season inspections of real estate parcels to prevent and mitigate wildfire, and coordinating with the California insurance commissioner on coverage and costs to better protect residents in the case of another devastating wildfire.
  • Address diverse housing supply and affordability.
  • Expand septic capacity for the community to increase opportunities for development and boost the local economy.
  • Streamline the zoning code and development review process to better facilitate safe rebuilding efforts.
  • Designate an office or individual as the single point of contact at the local government level to readily assist individuals in the rebuilding and financing process.

“Building a resilient and equitable community should be at the heart of a post-disaster recovery process, and we applaud the CRE Consulting Corps for lending their expertise to the Paradise rebuilding process and sharing creative, attainable recommendations to revive our beautiful town,” said Aubrey Pruis, association executive of the Paradise Association of REALTORS®, who is also working with the CRE Consulting Corps on the plan. “The team of counselors listened to our problems and concerns. Town leaders felt relieved that someone was listening to our challenges. This has been a game-changer for Paradise and has exceeded my expectations. We feel this project is going to change lives and give a lot of people hope. It already has."

View the full rebuilding report proposal.