What's at stake:

To address Fresno's ongoing housing crisis, Fresno City Council approved a large chunk of the 2022/23 budget to housing initiatives.

Fresno City Council dedicated more than $40 million to housing initiatives from the nearly $2 billion 2022/23 budget in a unanimous 7-0 vote to approve the budget Thursday. 

“That is a sizable investment, and I believe it shows how much we care about people in our community,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said at a news conference, following the approval of the budget. “We want them to have shelter. We want them to have rents that are affordable. We want them to have a roof over their head and to be able to own a home.”

In the past two years, the city of Fresno has been home to a growing unhoused population, amidst rents that continue to climb and a shrinking number of people that can afford to become homeowners in the area. 

Dyer said that only about 37% of Fresno residents can afford to purchase a median-priced home in the area, according to data from the California Realtors Association. Meanwhile, the average rent for all rentals ranging from studios to four-bedrooms in Fresno reached a record high of $1,400 in June, according to a new ApartmentList.com report. 

Fresno residents, who spoke during the public comment of Thursday’s meeting, reiterated the need for affordable housing and resources for the unhoused community in Fresno.

Where the money will go

The budget set aside $40 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to implement recommendations from the One Fresno Housing Strategy – a plan brought forth in April to address Fresno’s housing crisis over the next three years by Mayor Jerry Dyer’s administration.

The exact amount that will go toward each of the 47 housing and 24 homeless-related recommendations from the One Fresno Housing strategy has yet to come before the council. The strategy does, however, lay out a guideline for how much each recommendation may cost annually.

At a June 17 news conference, Dyer said he anticipates bringing some of the recommendations, including a down payment assistance program, before Fresno City Council in July or August. 

With approximately $1.1 million, the Fresno City Council created a new housing division that will hire 16 full-time staff dedicated to creating more affordable housing and homeless shelters, as well as inspecting the shelters, District 3 Councilmember Miguel Arias said.

The unanimously approved budget also set aside $50,000 for a new program to assist renters in relocation costs, equal to two months of the fair market rent price, if their housing is deemed uninhabitable by code enforcement and their landlord refuses to pay relocation assistance, as is required by California law. 

The program will only assist renters who do not cause substantial damage to their rental, and it will allow the Fresno City Attorney’s office to recover 150% of the relocation costs from landlords who do not initially pay their tenants. 

Meanwhile, the eviction protection program received additional funding. The program that provides tenants with free legal counsel, if their eviction is deemed potentially unlawful, was allocated $2 million of the $40 million from ARPA, according to Council Vice President Tyler Maxwell. 

A majority of the City Council members spoke about the increased commitment toward housing initiatives.

“I didn’t have to come begging for housing money this year,”  council president Nelson Esparza said, “because the mayor, you know, made it a priority to put $40 million in.”

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.

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