Federal National Mortgage Association: With help from Fannie Mae, Paradise, CA rebuilt over 1,000 homes
The town of Paradise in Butte Bounty, California was nearly destroyed by wildfires in 2018 when more than 11,100 homes and 2,000 structures were destroyed by the campfire, the most destructive wildfire of California history. This summer, as wildfires burn again in the West, such as the nearby Dixie Fire, now the largest blaze in California history, residents face a new threat. But there is encouraging news and a model of recovery and resilience available for other communities affected by fire, as more than 1,000 homes have been rebuilt, including 1,0001 single-family homes and 182 multi-family units, through a partnership. between Fannie Mae and the Rebuild Paradise Foundation.
Charles Brooks was one of the many Paradise residents who narrowly escaped the campfire. He and his family evacuated the area as the city blazed around them and, like many others, lost everything they had to leave behind. But Heaven was at home, so Charles and others decided to rebuild their beloved community.
The trip was not easy. A year after the fire, only 11 houses had been rebuilt. The process has been delayed by cleaning up hazardous waste, contaminated water, legal and insurance issues, rising material costs, labor shortages and COVID-19.
As Charles gathered information and sorted through the physical and administrative challenges of the reconstruction, the task seemed overwhelming. He has heard the same story from many others. It became clear that the Paradise community needed a roadmap to help them navigate the complex rebuilding process. As residents weighed their options, many continued to pay mortgages on homes that didn’t exist or felt pressured to pay off their homes with insurance funds and move elsewhere.
Seeing the need, Charles started a nonprofit called Rebuild Paradise Foundation. Its goal was simple – to provide essential resources to help residents find a way to rebuild their homes. During a visit to the area, Fannie Mae’s Disaster Relief and Reconstruction Team met Charles and heard about the Foundation’s work. We entered into a partnership, creating a model to help homeowners reduce costs and speed up the rebuilding process, including:
- Residential Floor Plan Library – A collection of home designs aligned with standards set by the City of Paradise and / or County of Butte, creating a ready resource that has saved residents time and money with pre-approved plans that could be adapted to their site of origin.
- Connect to resources for home builders – An online platform created to connect community members with builders, service providers and lenders – including educational videos produced with assistance from Fannie Mae to explain mortgage forbearance, mortgage options, prefabricated housing and the loan process.
- Mapping – A detailed and growing plot mapping tool containing information essential to rebuilding houses, including information on property surveys, soil contours, high resolution images and a septic capacity layer.
Fire Resistance and Mitigation Solutions – A set of innovation and building code-based fire resistance design practices, along with mitigation resources to support Paradise and other communities threatened by fire .
When he launched the Rebuild Paradise Foundation in 2018, Charles Brooks was unsure of how his efforts would impact and accelerate reconstruction in his community. We are proud to be a part of his efforts and are happy to have been able to help him help his community create positive outcomes and prepare for ongoing risks.
With another record-breaking wildfire season underway, the town of Paradise is a timely model that shows how innovations in resilience and recovery can help other communities threatened by fires. It’s part of our shared commitment to providing quality affordable housing and meeting the challenges of a changing landscape.