Home with fire approaching
(Photo credit: Forest Service, USDA / Flickr)

In many California cities, housing is prohibitively expensive.

“Our urban areas are so expensive that people working in those job centers are being pushed further and further out,” says Kate Gordon, director of the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

She says as the cost of city living has increased, more houses have been built in outlying areas of the state. They’re often near forests, grasslands, or other natural areas, so they’re at higher risk of burning when wildfires spread.

“What we call the wildland-urban interface, which is the sort of high-fire-risk areas of the state, are getting more and more populated, in part because of people commuting really long distances,” she says.

So Gordon says that as climate change increases the threat of intense wildfires, it’s important to address urban sprawl.

Last year, California allocated half a billion dollars to encourage high density residential construction in urban areas. The money will go toward building sidewalks, bus stops, parks, and other amenities that support city living.

Gordon says by prioritizing affordable urban housing, the state can help reduce further sprawl into fire-prone areas. That would shorten commute times, and it could save lives.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.