It’s Danielle Bergstrom, here today.

During the pandemic, rents and home prices have been skyrocketing in Fresno.

For many low-wage workers and working families, chasing lower-cost cities with their newly remote jobs and higher California salaries isn’t an option. Fresno has a higher number of people who work in farm labor, food processing, warehousing, and other service jobs that can’t easily go remote.

My colleague Cassandra Garibay wrote this week about a new report released by the Oakland-based Thrivance Group, called “Here to Stay,” providing Fresno city leaders with 48 possible policies they could adopt to make sure workers can weather the intense changes to our housing market, private and public investment in their communities, while keeping the culture of their neighborhood intact.

(The city is currently asking for feedback: read the report and submit your comments here by August 21.)

The Thrivance Group chose three policies to highlight:

  • A community land trust, a type of nonprofit that owns land at low values, and allows people to build and own affordable homes for long periods of time without worrying about price escalation or the affordable contract running out (many apartments that are affordable through government programs have an expiration date)
  • A rent stabilization and “affordability in perpetuity” policy to establish a citywide rent control program and work to re-negotiate affordable housing contracts at-risk of expiration. California does have an anti-rent gouging policy that limits some rent increases over 5% annually plus inflation, but it does not apply to rental single-family homes or units built less than 15 years ago.
  • Implement a Fair Chance Housing policy to eliminate discrimination against any tenants with a criminal or arrest record.

Is displacement already happening in Fresno?

It’s been central to Fresno’s history from the beginning.

Report author (and former Fresno resident) Destiny Thomas describes the city’s history of divestment from certain communities as resulting from, “hostile land acquisitions imposed on Indigenous Americans, forced labor exploitation of Black farmers, unjust labor practices toward Brown migrants, and the socioeconomic alienation of Hmong residents.”

Last year, I reported on how Chinatown businesses are surviving their second pandemic and high-speed rail construction, after the construction of the Highway 99 freeway in the 1950s and then multiple “urban renewal” schemes in the 1960s and 70s obliterated multiple blocks of a thriving Japanese, Black, and Latino commercial district.

But just because you don’t see a brand new Starbucks or a major construction project in a neighborhood doesn’t mean that residents aren’t feeling displacement pressures.

“What’s really dangerous, and what I would refer to as violent about the cycle of displacement, is by the time you realize it’s happening, so many people have already experienced it, “ said Thomas, in an interview with Cassandra.

This week in local public meetings

At the Parlier City Council meeting on July 1, documenter Josef Sibala reported that city manager Sonia Hall urged the City Council to establish an independent oversight committee to review Measure Q sales tax expenditures. The City Council did not take action. Read more here.

At the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 29, documenter Josef Sibala reported that the board rejected all bids for the Traver Bridge project (with American Paving Company protesting during public comment) and unanimously approved a Hampton Inn and Suites in Three Rivers, after some residents shared concerns about water quality during public comment. Read more here.

At the Fresno Housing Authority meeting on June 28, documenter Bre Yamaoka reported that the board approved the submission of grant applications for three affordable housing projects: one at Chestnut/Alluvial Avenues in northeast Fresno, one at Olive/Golden State near Motel Drive, and one for single-family homes in southwest Fresno near Plumas and Florence Avenues. Read more here.

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