Fresno ranks No. 3 for greatest homewonership increase in the past decade. Credit: John Walker / The Fresno Bee

Rates of homeownership in Fresno increased significantly from 2010 to 2020 — the third-highest increase among the largest 70 metropolitan areas in the nation.

Using the U.S. Census Bureau data on homeownership, Filterbuy, an air filtration company, determined that from 2010 to 2020, homeownership in Fresno rose 7.8 percentage points — from 49.3% to 57.1% — flipping the area to a majority homeowner metropolitan area.

City Manager Thomas Esqueda said the increase in homeownership is a “good thing for the community.”

The upward trend in homeownership in the 10-year period is not unique to Fresno. According to the study, Fresno falls behind Syracuse, 10.3% and Cincinnati, 8.3%.

The study notes that nationwide, homeownership rates began to trend upward around 2015, following the 2008 housing bubble and Great Recession that had caused a sharp decline.

“Homeownership had slowly been trending upward but saw an especially sharp spike from 2019 to 2020,” the study reads. “The raw number of owner-occupied units rose by 4.6 million, to 83.8 million.”

Increased housing demand continued into 2021

During the pandemic, the Fresno area has experienced increased demand for housing, for both those seeking rentals and homes to buy.

“With the way the pandemic rolled out, we just got caught flat-footed,” Esqueda said. “With the pandemic and people starting to move into the area because they don’t have to be tethered to an office anymore, we just got caught in a situation where our inventory just wasn’t available to meet the demand.”

Home-buying prices shot up more than 22% from May 2020 to May 2021, according to data from the California Association of Realtors. Rent prices have continued to increase rapidly. And developers submitted an incredibly high number of permitting requests in the first half of 2021.

Jennifer Clark, Planning and Development director, said during the June 16 budget hearing that building permit activity from June 2020 to June 2021 skyrocketed, averaging nearly 900 permit requests per month.

In the decade leading up to 2020, Fresno City’s Planning and Development staff processed an average of 118 entitlement applications per year, Clark said, adding that by the end of the calendar year, the city is on track to approve 2,000 single-family home permits in 2021 — 50% more than the 20-year average in Fresno. It was unclear whether those homes would be rentals or occupied by owners.

Esqueda said the city has surpassed that number in permit approvals and will continue to focus on increasing housing stock in the new year. He said the city also is looking into developing a down-payment assistance program using state and federal dollars.

“Even with the increases we’re seeing it’s still an affordable community relative to what you’re finding in the Bay Area, Sacramento, Southern California,” Esqueda said. “So as much as we can do to make that option available to folks to get into those homes with down-payment assistance, we’re totally excited about that.”

Esqueda said the City Council will receive an update on housing projects at its Jan. 13 meeting.

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.