What's at stake?

The city of Fresno is facing an affordable housing crisis. Transforming defunct government buildings into affordable housing could be part of the solution.

The former Water Resource Board building in the Mayfair neighborhood of central Fresno could become an affordable housing development, according to an announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday. 

The government building at First and Shields Avenues in Fresno is one of five, state-owned, properties open to affordable housing developers, Newsom said.  The California Department of Housing and Community Development and the California Department of General Services are looking for developers to build affordable housing units on the state’s excess land.

“I think it’s a great idea; it’s one of the biggest needs we have in our city – not just housing, but affordable housing,” said Tyler Maxwell, Fresno City Council vice president, who represents the district in which the property is located. 

Maxwell added that the property,  located at 3374 E. Shields Ave., is great for housing because of its central location and proximity to stores and freeways. 

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer also praised the state’s strategy and said the city is exploring a similar idea – using city-owned properties for affordable housing. 

“As we navigate our way through the affordable housing crisis, it is imperative that we take advantage of existing public owned land to develop affordable housing on,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said in a statement to Fresnoland. “That is exactly what the state of California is doing.” 

“As part of the One Fresno Housing Strategy, the city of Fresno will continue to identify city owned property that can also be utilized for affordable housing development,” he added. “This is one of many strategies that is being utilized to increase affordable housing opportunities.” 

Dyer is expected to bring forward a handful of proposals from the One Fresno Housing Strategy at the Sept. 29 City Council meeting. 

How was the Fresno location selected? 

Through the Excess Land for Affordable Housing program, DGS and HCD reviewed more than 44,000 state-owned properties to determine which are considered excess and could be used for affordable housing.

There are 14 active affordable housing projects up and down the state – including one in Reedley – where construction of 48 affordable housing units, at the site of the former Reedley Armory, is expected to be completed in March 2023. 

A photo rendering of the 48-unit affordable housing complex being built in Reedley at the site of the former Reedley Armory through the Excess Land for Affordable Housing program. Courtesy of the California Department of General Services.

And the five new sites – including properties in Covina, Sacramento, Oceanside and Atascadero – were announced Monday. 

“California’s housing affordability crisis has been more than a half century in the making,” Newsom said in a Monday news release, “and the state is tackling this foundational challenge with an innovative ‘all of the above’ approach.” 

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.