Good afternoon, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Monday, July 27th.

It’s Dayana Jiselle here.

It’s been a month since I became Fresnoland’s engagement reporter. I came aboard with open ears to learn what the community’s biggest concerns are during the pandemic. I found that the most often recurring topic is housing and rent.

California’s housing and rent crisis has been directly affected by residents’ loss of income due to COVID-19. Many residents, for the first time, are unable to pay rent due to reduced work hours or loss of income. Even with interest rates at historically low rates, families are still unable to purchase homes. That is why we are highlighting ways to lighten your housing cost load.

I quickly learned how valuable Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are for Fresno. These backyard homes are not “backyard” homes for many families in Fresno; it is their only and beloved home. I was impressed to see the quality and upkeep of these structures, which, besides their limited space, looked just like a normal home.

The main concern for many Fresno residents with building an ADU is obtaining required permits that could cost more than $2,000. Without permits and professional inspection of the structure and land it is built on, the homeowner risks occupants’ safety and can also face fines up to $1,600. And then there’s the cost to make the structure itself habitable and up to code, which can cost at least tens of thousands of dollars.

One Fresno family built a backyard home for their elderly parents who could no longer afford rent on their apartment —but did not use engineers or construction experts. Their ADU design did not have any windows, making it dangerous in case of a fire. They could not afford the permits or have windows installed due to the limited wall space.

For another Fresno family, dealing with their undocumented status and the seasonal nature of their jobs made the rent from their illegal ADU essential to their monthly income.

When I spoke to the city, they shared their support for ADUs as a great option in affordable housing, including reducing the permit fees as well as assisting with financing. The city previously lowered one of the required permits from $2,140 to $648 to help in the process.

For many Fresno renters and homeowners, the retention grant of $1.5 million announced on July 1 seemed like relief. The grant is open to Fresno County residents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and have past due rent or utility bills. There is also a household income limit from one person at $39,150 to 14 people at $100,650.

Six local organizations have taken the lead in collecting applications and distributing the funds. However, many residents are expressing frustrations with the application process because they are not able to reach a live person over the phone and some are unable to apply or get information.

I spoke to Councilmember Esmeralda Soria who said this was phase one of two and the involved organizations are still trying to find the best process.

Dates for phase two are unknown, but the city has $3.5 million more to give out.

Finally, do you want to share about your experiences as a renter or homeowner during the pandemic? Central California Legal Services and the Christian Community Development Collective are collecting responses for a survey that will inform their pandemic response.

(What stories are not being told in our coverage right now? Send tips to me: danielle@thefresnoland.com)

And now, the week’s top reads:

(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit www.fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)

A north south divide? See where more people test positive for Covid-19 in Fresno and Clovis. Fresno Bee

The Trump administration has repealed the fair housing rule aimed at trying to prevent racial discrimination in housing. Fresno Bee

Latino leaders push for audit of Fresno County coronavirus spending. Fresno Bee

Former employees are suing Harris Ranch for racial discrimination. Fresno Bee

Fresno leaders pushed to reopen some businesses early. Then COVID-19 cases began to rise, records show. Fresno Bee

The pandemic is leading to a number of retail stores filing for bankruptcy. Find out what this means for Fresno. Fresno Bee

More than 1.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, the first increase since the end of March. Fresno Bee

Policymakers and political leaders are asked to improve opportunities for Latino communities Fresno Bee

Black households are being evicted, despite eviction moratoriums during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times

The end of the expanded unemployment benefits is looming, and tenants, landlords and housing advocates are worried about a wave of evictions. Los Angeles Times

California had a plan to bring clean water to a million people. Then the pandemic hit. San Francisco Chronicle

The editorial board of the New York Times called on Congress to impose a nationwide moratorium on evictions and to give people who have lost their jobs the money required for their rent or mortgage. New York Times

Renters should take crucial steps to avoid eviction as the eviction moratorium expires today. The Washington Post

The coming foreclosure crisis? Not for now. Curbed

Coming soon to a national park near you? San Francisco start-up wants to capitalize on remote work, create fancy trailer and van parks for affluent remote-workers. Tech Crunch

OPINION: Urbanism is complicit in infrastructural racism – and reparations have a place in the built environment, says Dr. Destiny Thomas, an urban planner. Streetsblog USA

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