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California Faces 'Existential' Dilemma in Tackling Climate Change, Housing Crisis

By Alicia Victoria Lozano

LOS ANGELES — Santa Monica resident Leonora Camner only has to open her windows to escape Southern California's worsening heat waves.

Where millions of Los Angeles County residents must sit in a car for more than an hour to drive to the beach, Camner can get there in minutes. Coastal access is an equity issue, however, one that she said inspired her to join Abundant Housing LA, a nonprofit organization that advocates for solutions to the region’s affordable housing crisis. She is now the group's executive director.

“I’m very fortunate to live in a place where we still have a cool breeze,” she said. “So many people work here in Santa Monica, but they are constantly having to leave because of the rising cost and lack of housing.”

As home prices soar and wildfires rage across California, the state is increasingly confronted with the herculean task of addressing climate change while creating more affordable housing. A series of new mandates recently issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom has plunged the state deeper into what some say is an “existential” dilemma generations in the making: how to house the state’s 40 million residents while also protecting its natural resources.

It’s a complicated task in a state where both homelessness and home prices are on the rise as climate change is fueling wildfires and drought.

“It’s such an existential issue for a California facing climate change,” Camner said. “With these extreme fires, I don't see how we can ever address housing in a way that doesn't plan for that fact. There is no getting around it.”

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