Sonoma county housing policies help displaced residents

In response to the recent destructive wildfires, Sonoma County and Santa Rosa government officials have acted on a series of new policies primarily focused on sheltering the thousands of residents whose homes were destroyed.

The County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors adopted an Urgency Ordinance enacting a 45 day moratorium on the issuance of any new vacation property permits. It is intended to temporarily preserve the County’s existing single-family residences and accessory dwellings for permanent residential and long-term rental uses. The Board of Supervisors believe that conversion of these dwellings to vacation rentals would contribute to the existing housing emergency.

Locally a vacation rental or hosted rental is defined as a rental of 30 days or less. The ordinance may be extended for periods of up to two years. California stat law defines price gouging as charging more than ten percent over the average price charged prior to the emergency. This applies to transient occupancy, short-term and long-term rentals of less than one year. It also applies to contracting and materials

Nearly 7,000 structures were destroyed in the fires and most of those were homes. Housing and rental options were already in short supply and the ordinances hope to ease some of the burden on displaced residents.

“I think what we’re trying to do is show the community that we are willing to look outside the box for creative solutions that allow people to stay here through the rebuilding process,” said Santa Rosa Councilman Chris Rogers.

Certain County-owned properties allowing persons living in RVs, trailers, campers, and other vehicles to be parked overnight and some services will be provided such as bathrooms and showers. In some instances overnight parking will be allowed on private properties, like church grounds.

Both the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Rosa City Council will consider ordinances targeting price gouging in the rental housing market. The county’s ordinance would require landlords in the unincorporated area to provide supporting data to justify any increase over the unit’s average rental price from before the disaster, according to county officials.

Santa Rosa landlords must refrain from increasing rents by more than 10 percent above the amount charged immediately before the fire. This is in sync with state law and normally applies for 30 days after such emergency.  Governor Jerry Brown extended the implementation of the law through April 18.


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