California Bill Would Create Disaster Bridge Loan Program for Wildfire Survivors

A bill recently introduced in California, “Affordable Disaster Housing Revolving Development and Acquisition Program-AB 1945,” seeks to shorten the amount of time it takes for survivors of wildfire disasters to access long-term recovery assistance. California is dealing with the aftermath of a series of damaging fire seasons. The wildfires of 2017 and 2018 destroyed 28,000 homes across Northern California, and the 2018 Camp Fire – the deadliest fire in California history – devastated the entire town of Paradise, destroying nearly 14,000 homes and killing 85 people. California experienced its first “gigafire” in 2020, with more than 1 million acres burned, while 2021 saw the largest single-source wildfire in California history.

HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR) is the main source of federal long-term recovery funds. However, the program remains unauthorized, meaning that Congress must approve funds for disaster recovery for individual disasters under the program. Meanwhile, HUD is required to re-publish program rules each time congressional approval occurs. As a result, vital long-term recovery funds are slow to reach disaster survivors, often taking years. Because short-term recovery assistance ends quickly following a disaster, gaps in assistance arise. For low-income disaster survivors, delays in aid can result in financial stress, re-traumatization, displacement, and in the worst cases, homelessness.

The “Reforming Disaster Recovery Act,” introduced by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Todd Young (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), and Representative Al Green (D-TX), would permanently authorize the CDBG-DR program and create a framework for permanent program rules while also allowing program funds to quickly reach those disaster survivors most in need of assistance. The bill is strongly supported by NLIHC’s Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC), a group of more than 850 local, state, and national organizations working to ensure that all disaster survivors receive the assistance they need to fully recover.  

AB 1945 – which is supported by NLIHC, the DHRC, and California Coalition for Rural Housing, an NLIHC partner and DHRC member – would seek to mitigate the slow distribution of federal long-term recovery funds by creating a bridge loan program. Under the program, disaster survivors could access California state funding for housing recovery, with the state’s coffers being later replenished by CDBG-DR funds from HUD. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) would compete for grant awards to provide short-term loans for the creation or rehabilitation of housing that would be eligible for federal assistance, jump starting recovery before federal funds become available. The bill passed unanimously out of the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee.

Read a factsheet on AB 1945 at:  

Read an action alert concerning the bill issued by the California Coalition for Rural Housing at: