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

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Holding signs with phrases like “Housing 4 All” and “Rentas Justas y Dignas,” several dozen renters, advocates and unhoused community members gathered in front of Fresno City Hall on Friday to again demand that city leaders act urgently on housing policies to alleviate Fresno’s housing crisis.

“It is impossible for our families to have to choose whether to pay rent or buy food or other necessities; that is a situation that we are facing right now,” Deiglis Delgado with Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas said in Spanish during the event. “Many cities in California have adopted rent control and my question is why has Fresno done nothing?”

Behind her stood protesters and advocates with community based organizations, including Faith in the Valley, Leadership Council, We Are Not Invisible, and Power California.

Later, community members were invited to short workshops on advocacy — how to call into City Council meetings to voice their positions — as well as how to access emergency rental assistance and the eviction protection program.

What community members hope to achieve

Alexandra Alverado, housing organizer with Faith in the Valley, said residents showed up to call out “the inaction of city council” in housing policies.

“For so many folks, rent is already way too high,” Alverado told The Bee. “Adding on $50, $75, most folks that we talk to are already at the max. They are paying way more than 30% of their income to rent.”

While Friday’s event touched broadly on many housing needs — from pleas for the city to open warming centers to calls for rent control ordinances — event speakers stressed that the city council and the mayor’s office should take immediate action on “Here To Stay,” a report that addresses displacement in the city of Fresno.

Completed in November 2021 by the Thrivance Group and commissioned by Transform Fresno, the study provided 46 policy recommendations. The Anti Displacement Task Force voted on which 15 policies to prioritize in December.

The city of Fresno, however, has not addressed the policies at a city council meeting and will not do so now until April “to better align with other scheduled housing discussions, including the Housing Element Annual Progress Report and the Annual Action Plan,” stated an email from Sophia Pagoulatus, the Planning and Development Department manager. Mayor Jerry Dyer is also expected to announce a One Fresno Housing plan in April.

“This housing crisis didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s been slowly building,” Alvarado said. “We sometimes hear the city council talk about how urgent this issue is, and this “Here to Stay” report has been around; this could have been taken care of last year.”

Miguel Arias, the only councilmember to attend the event, said the council is aware that there is an issue and is committed to hearing all potential solutions.

“What I heard today is what I’ve heard in my district for more than three years, which is that there is a housing crisis, and they are being priced out,” Arias said. “We need to hurry up and have honest and difficult and uncomfortable conversations about all the different strategies.”

Housing advocates, however, said Fresno residents cannot afford to wait.

“What I’ve seen so far is that we have two groups talking past each other,” Arias added. “The community is asking us to address the existing affordable housing stock and to protect it … the private sector is asking us to address the housing crisis by building new inventory that is market rate.”

Dez Martinez, a homeless advocate and founder of We Are Not Invisible, said she is “tired of band-aids over these gushing wounds that we have.”

“It’s beyond frustration now,” Alverado said. “That sense of urgency isn’t there.”

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.