As most Californians know by now, our state is in a housing crisis that is decades in the making. This crisis has been a central focus of our work in the Legislature, with the Newsom administration allocating a tremendous amount of resources to combatting the issue.
But we simply cannot build our way out of the problem. One thing that gets overlooked when discussing the state’s housing needs is the importance of preserving California’s existing supply.
Just as we do all we can to safeguard housing in fire-prone areas, we must also protect older homes in areas that face a substantial threat from an earthquake.
On average, California has 10,000 earthquakes each year. A 5.1-magnitude temblor recently rattled San Jose. Many Bay Area residents also remember experiencing the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which occurred during the World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants and caused billions of dollars in damages, thousands of injuries and 63 deaths. It was a stark reminder that many of us live along the San Andreas fault and need to better prepare for the next big one.
Many Bay Area residents don’t know if their home could withstand shaking from a damaging earthquake. Modern homes, even though they may experience structural damage, are designed to remain standing. However, according to the California Earthquake Authority, about 1.2 million homes built before 1980 are considered more vulnerable because they are not bolted to their foundations and lack bracing on the wood-framed walls. These homes need to be retrofitted to improve their seismic performance.
The California Residential Mitigation Program’s Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) grant program can help strengthen your property and protect your family. And the good news is that it has nearly $80 million in grant funding available for eligible Californians right now.
Applications can be submitted until Nov. 29. Eligible homeowners can apply for grants of up to $3,000 at EarthquakeBraceBolt.com, where they can also find detailed program information, select FEMA-trained, California-licensed general contractors and view the full list of eligible ZIP codes and program areas — many of which are in the Bay Area.
The EBB program, which aims to help homeowners lessen potential for damage to their houses during an earthquake, has helped more than 17,500 homeowners. This year, nearly 15,000 grants will be available to homeowners in 521 ZIP codes in more than 270 cities and communities.
Income-eligible homeowners may also qualify for available supplemental grants. The amounts vary depending on the region and type of retrofit completed. These supplemental grants, which are available for households with an income at or below $72,080, might cover 100% of the funds needed for a seismic retrofit.
Participating homeowners will be selected through a random drawing and notified via email in January if they have been selected or if they have been placed on the wait list.
Earthquakes can devastate local communities. The more you can be prepared in advance, the better your outcome will be. I encourage you to apply for grant funding today.
Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, is chairwoman of the Standing Committee on Housing and Community Development.