Dez Martinez, a homeless advocate, spoke with other community members about a need for affordable housing and homeless resources in Fresno. Credit: Cassandra Garibay / Fresnoland/The Fresno Bee

Rent increases in Fresno topped national charts again in 2021, with a 28% increase in one-bedroom rent prices between January 2021 and January 2022, according to real estate listing website Zumper.

Prices for two-bedroom rentals also shot up nearly 27%, and were among the top 10 highest increases in the nation during that same time span.

As of January 2022, rental prices in Fresno for a one-bedroom apartment have increased to a median of $1,400 a month, and two-bedroom apartments are an average of $1,700 a month, according to Zumper.

Apartment List, another apartment research company, pegs the median price for a one-bedroom rental in Fresno at just over $1,050, and a two-bedroom apartment at around $1,300 as of February, showing a 15.3% increase from the year prior.

This is the second year in a row that Fresno’s skyrocketing rent has been among the nation’s highest. In 2021, an Apartment List study found that Fresno’s rent increase in 2020 was the second-highest in the nation at 10.8%, and the city had the highest four-year rent increase in the nation.

The 2022 Zumper National Rent Report comes at a time when the city is grappling with how to address an increasing homeless population and lack of affordable housing amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

“The increase in rent has been far greater than the increase in wages in our city, leaving a lot of our folks priced out of the market,” Fresno City Councilmember Miguel Arias said at an affordable housing news conference in January.

City officials have said on many occasions that affordable housing is one of the city’s top priorities; in October, Mayor Jerry Dyer said, “Housing and homelessness together are really the defining issues of our time.”

Dozens of Fresno residents have reached out to The Bee in the past year, reporting that the high cost of rent has forced them to stay in unsafe or unhealthy living conditions, move into hotels and motels, or out on the streets.

Throughout the past year, the city of Fresno has initiated several affordable housing projects, including single-family in southwest Fresno, multifamily housing along the Blackstone Avenue corridor, acquiring motels for temporary homeless shelter and implementing an affordable housing trust fund.

However, statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show the rental vacancy rate in the Fresno metropolitan area stayed below 2% for a majority of the past two years. The low supply and unavailability have contributed to rising rental rates and kept people from finding secure housing.

City leaders were set to hear policy recommendations from the Here to Stay report meant to curb displacement and homelessness in Fresno at the Feb. 10 City Council meeting; however, the hearing has been moved to a later date, according to an email from the city.

The policy recommendations — 46 in total, 15 of which have been prioritized by the city’s Anti-Displacement Task Force — include rent control, Fair Chance housing for people with prior convictions and a full right to counsel.

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.