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Ordinance Barring Price Gouging On Housing & More Passes During City Council Emergency Meeting

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Marc Albert
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Attempting to squelch profiteering and price gouging as the deadliest wildfire in recorded California history continues to unfold, Chico officials approved emergency legislation this morning.

Swiftly responding to reports of escalating prices during the crisis, an ordinance strictly barring price gouging on all housing, and any goods or services was unanimously passed by the Chico City Council, meeting in emergency session.

Separately, the council approved an emergency lease, allowing the Town of Paradise to set up temporary quarters and coordinate continuing recovery operations and prepare for reconstruction in Chico’s old city hall, on Main Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets.

The regulations come days after the Camp Fire wiped out thousands of dwellings in Paradise, Concow, Magalia, Butte Valley and Butte Creek Canyon.

City manager Mark Orme had a message for the displaced.

“One, if you don’t have someone to stay with, get to a sanctioned a properly serviced shelter. There are resources that will help you overcome the obstacles that you’re facing. Two, check in with your insurance company. Three, get registered with FEMA.” Orme said.

The ordinance prohibits landlords from raising rents more than 10 percent atop what they were charging October 8th, a month before the fire erupted.

The emergency ordinance also covers units or rooms that haven’t been rented out previously, hoping to prevent profiteering by unscrupulous property owners.

City and University officials are also working to encourage students to share bedrooms to free up space. Dan Herbert, Director of Off Campus Student Services at CSU Chico, said officials are trying to pair displaced students, staff and faculty with others connected to the University. Herbert said university officials have spoken with FEMA about using university property, including the University Farm for some kind of emergency housing.

“We’re exploring every avenue possible and we are open to ideas through that. Ideas you want to throw out, I would welcome communication myself or any of the staff at Chico State.” Herbert said.

Separately, Councilman Karl Ory said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested a large parcel from the city, perhaps to park for trailers for evacuees.

FEMA, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and other federal and state agencies are stockpiling supplies at the Chico Airport prior to distribution.