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Why KQED Focused a Season of Its Housing Podcast on Climate Change

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Both housing and climate change are huge problems that seem in many ways unsolvable. As a result, many of us feel so powerless or discouraged that we turn away. The third season of KQED’s podcast Sold Out: Rethinking Housing in America, tells the stories of people who cannot turn away.

Our reporters have traveled across the state, listening to stories of Californians who are fighting to make a home here.

You’ll hear from a teenager whose family fled Pajaro following ferocious winter flooding only to struggle to find an affordable place to live. You’ll hear from a mom living on the streets of Fresno, fighting to keep her son from baking during summer heat waves even as temperatures soared north of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. And there’s the story of a group of neighbors along one block in Oakland, who have banded together to try and ditch their gasoline appliances and electrify.

We look at efforts to lower risk for homeowners in wildfire country, where the widespread loss of home insurance is rattling communities at their foundations. We also examine how San Jose is trying to build more infill housing, and in the process atone for California’s total devotion to sprawling suburbs and single family homes.


The season is anchored by KQED Housing Correspondent Erin Baldassari, who brings us into her own story as she grapples with whether it’s safe to move her family back home to the fire-prone Sierra Nevada foothills where she grew up.

Here’s the thing about climate and housing: the two problems are thoroughly intertwined. It’s just that, individually, they are so big and unwieldy that we don’t often consider how they compound.

The soaring cost of living pushes Californians out of cities and into the path of floods and fires. It also forces millions to drive more and emit more carbon pollution, further warming the planet.  When disaster does strike, and people must flee, there’s nowhere affordable left for them to go. For many, it’s a fast track to homelessness — a state that, as one homelessness expert told reporter Vanessa Rancaño, is “on the bleeding edge” of this climate emergency.

Let’s be clear about what this project is not: it’s not a postmortem on the California Dream, one of those California-Is-Burning-Up or I’m-Fleeing-California stories. This is our attempt to do the opposite.

We stare straight into the headlights of two seemingly intractable problems, and shepherd out the solutions from the people who are actively working to protect their communities.

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