A new housing development that opened in 2022 in Fresno's Tower District has a waitlist for tenants. Credit: Danielle Bergstrom / Fresnoland

What's at stake?

The city of Fresno is amidst an ongoing housing crisis that has left many people with little to no affordable housing options, but on Thursday, the city is set to vote on allocating roughly $9 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to various policies meant to curb rising prices.

After months of waiting for details on Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer’s One Fresno Housing Strategy, the Fresno City Council is now set to vote on eight housing policies – at a total cost of about $9 million in federal pandemic funds – on Thursday. 

In April, Mayor Jerry Dyer released the One Fresno Housing Strategy which included 47 housing policy recommendations and another 20 recommendations related to homelessness. 

While the council approved $40 million toward housing initiatives in June, the council will vote on a package of housing resolutions introduced in the One Fresno Housing Strategy for the first time Thursday. 

The City Council also heard recommendations in April from the Here to Stay report, published by the Thrivance Group in Oct. 2021.

Here’s the list of what councilmembers will have to decide on Thursday, and who might benefit:

“A housing hurricane”

Nearly 60% of the renters in the city are cost burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income in rent – and Fresno was ranked as one of the most severely cost burned cities in the nation for renters and homeowners in July. Since 2019, only 2-3% of rentals have been vacant, driving up the cost of rent and leaving many people unable to find safe, affordable housing.

“The pressures of increased rents, the pressures of increased migration from other, more higher priced areas in the state has really pushed the housing market to a place that we’ve not seen in recent history,” said Fresno Housing CEO Tyronne Roderick Williams.

“We are in a housing hurricane and we don’t know how long it’s going to last.” 

Fresno community members have for the past year called for the city to take action and implement policies to keep people housed – through rallies at City Hall, public comments and community-organized news conferences. 

Additionally, homelessness in the Fresno, Madera area also increased by around 15% overall between January 2020 and February 2022, according to data from the Point in Time Count. 

1. Voucher Incentive Program

What is it?

This program would help the Fresno Housing Authority educate landlords on the Section 8 housing voucher program and create a landlord reserve fund that could be used to pay for repairs, according to Tyronne Roderick Williams, CEO of the Fresno Housing Authority.  

When a prospective renter receives a housing voucher from Fresno Housing Authority, they are given a limited amount of time to find housing in the private market or risk losing the voucher. Roderick Williams said the success of the voucher program is heavily reliant on private landlords.

As of Jan. 2020, the Fair Employment and Housing Act made it illegal for landlords to discriminate against certain types of income earners, meaning they cannot refuse to rent to people because they have a housing voucher. The law is not always enforced – and in today’s soaring housing market, landlords can rent for more than what voucher holders can afford – even with assistance. 

Who will benefit?

Up to 500 voucher holding families are expected to benefit from the program, according to an email from Fresno Housing Authority. 

Currently, there are 913 voucher holders seeking housing. The ongoing housing crisis has drastically reduced the likelihood of voucher holders finding a place to rent. 

According to data from Fresno Housing Authority, the success rate of voucher holders has dropped to 34% – meaning that only a third of voucher holders, who are seeking housing, find housing before they must relinquish their voucher for the next person in line.

“We’ve been very aggressive at looking at what we can do as an agency that allows us to help our voucher holders to become more competitive in this market,” Williams said. “But even with all of the things that we’ve done, we’ve never experienced the length of time that it’s taking our voucher holders to find housing.”

In 2017, the success rate of voucher holders was 70%. In January 2021, it was 55%. Roderick Williams said the 34% success rate is an unprecedented low, and he hopes the voucher incentive program will help raise it. 

How much does it cost?

A resolution on the council agenda calls for a one-time, $1 million allocation of ARPA funds to encourage landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program. Fresno Housing Authority would be in charge of distributing the funds.

2. Rent Stabilization

What is it?

The goal of rent stabilization is to limit how often and how much landlords can raise rents. Rent stabilization can come in many forms – from caps on rent increases to restrictions on certain types of housing. California does have a rent control policy that caps rent increases at 10% annually, but it does not cover rentals of single-family homes or homes built in the last 15 years.

The rent stabilization program proposed by Dyer would provide landlords with grants over a two-year period to keep rent at a “pre-2021” price through an affordability contract. Very little details on the affordable housing covenants were laid out in the resolution. 

Who will benefit?

The program proposed by Dyer would subsidize landlords directly with the purpose of keeping rent more affordable for renters. There are no details about how many landlords (and renters) will benefit.

How much does it cost?

The resolution for the rent stabilization program proposes a one-time, $1 million allocation in ARPA funding for rent stabilization grants to landlords. There are no details on the size of the grants going to landlords at this time.

3. Community Land Trusts

What is it?

Community land trusts are nonprofit organizations that purchase property, typically with the intent of keeping the housing on the property affordable in perpetuity. Community land trusts do this by selling the home while maintaining ownership of the property itself. It’s a strategy used in cities across the world to preserve affordable homeownership and rental options, especially in neighborhoods that are gentrifying.

Who will benefit?

Between 10 – 25 households seeking to buy or rent a home but cannot afford market prices, can benefit from the program, according to Patience Milrod, who serves on the leadership team of the Central California Community Land Trust. The resolution being considered by the city council would provide funds directly to the Central California Community Land Trust, a nonprofit.

How much does it cost?

A resolution on the agenda proposes to allocate $1 million in one-time funding from ARPA to the Central California Community Land Trust. 

4. Mixed-Income Neighborhood Trust

What is it?

A mixed-income neighborhood trust is a type of housing corporation designed to purchase property, protect the affordability of the units in the long-term and prevent displacement of current residents, according to Esther Carver, executive director of the Lowell Community Development Corporation (CDC).

This type of housing – ‘naturally occurring affordable housing’ – as experts call it, is very common throughout Fresno. Rents may be below market rates because the housing is in poor condition or located in a neighborhood that is not seen as ‘desirable’ by upwardly mobile people or real estate agents. 

The program in Fresno is a partnership between the Lowell CDC and Trust Neighborhoods, a nonprofit that has launched similar initiatives in Kansas City, Tulsa, and Boston.

Who will benefit?

Up to 50 renters who live in unsubsidized housing in central Fresno. The Lowell Community Development Corporation has already purchased two properties to rehab and preserve as affordable: 

  • 1139 East Divisadero Ave., a vacant five-plex in the Lowell neighborhood
  • 2056 East White Ave., an occupied five-plex in the Jefferson neighborhood

Residents that live in a property acquired by the Central Fresno Neighborhood Trust (CFNT) can expect to see their rents frozen, and only see rent increases tied to inflation – up to a point. “You’ll never see the rents in a CFNT property go higher than [what would be considered affordable for] 80% of the area median income,” Carver said.

How much does it cost?

A resolution on the council agenda calls for a one-time, $2 million allocation of ARPA funds that will be used to help the Fresno MINT acquire new properties. 

5. Tiny Homes

What is it?

Dyer is proposing to pay the Fresno City College Tiny Home Construction Partnership to build 24 tiny homes for low-income residents by 2026. Fresno City College’s Applied Technology program had, in the past, partnered with the City of Clovis and Habitat for Humanity to build single-family homes for purchase, according to Matthew Grundy, Fresno deputy mayor.

Who will benefit?

The resolution states that the homes will be for 24 low-income residents. In the past, the program has been discussed as a solution for unhoused individuals. Grundy said if the funding is approved, the city will develop a request for proposals that will lay out more details on who might be eligible for a tiny home, and where the tiny homes will be located.

How much does it cost? 

Fresno City College’s Applied Technology program is slated to receive $850,000 in one-time ARPA funds. 

6. Local Housing Trust Fund

What is it?

In 2021, the city of Fresno approved a housing trust fund to help with gap financing of affordable housing development and bringing more state and federal funding to the city. The fund was started with a $1 million one-time allocation from Fresno’s General Fund and an additional $1.5 million from the Real Estate Transfer Tax that will be voted on annually. 

Housing trust funds have been used across the nation, with more than 40 cities in California having one, according to Community Change, a housing advocacy organization that tracks such funds.

Who will it benefit?

The local housing trust fund can be used to incentivize or gap finance affordable housing developers. The increase in affordable housing stock is greatly needed in the city of Fresno. 

How much does it cost?

The city will vote on Thursday to allocate $2 million one-time to this program from the city’s ARPA funds. 

7. Eviction Protection Program

What is it?

The eviction protection program is another ongoing program that could see more funding on Thursday. 

The eviction protection program was created in August 2021 and provides renters facing potentially unlawful evictions with free legal counsel. 

Who will it benefit? 

The program is geared toward renters facing potentially unlawful evictions, no matter what their income is.

How much does it cost?

The EPP was launched with $750,000 of one-time emergency rental assistance funding. An additional $790,000 in emergency rental assistance funds were approved for the program for fiscal year 2023. 

On Thursday, the city will vote to allocate $1 million from ARPA and $210,000 from the General Fund for the program to continue as is. 

8. Ministerial approval of housing projects near transit

What is it?

The council will also be considering the long-awaited mixed-use text amendment (MUTA, as the city planners call it). Planners say that the proposed changes to the zoning code will help incentivize more developers to build housing along the city’s primary bus routes: Blackstone, Ventura/Kings Canyon, and Shaw Avenues. The text amendment (a fancy name for a change to zoning laws) includes a few changes to the zoning code, specifically:

  • Eliminating maximum residential densities in all mixed-use districts
  • Allows for ministerial approval of housing projects in the city’s priority infill areas, as long as they meet city standards and don’t overburden city infrastructure
  • Eliminates mandatory ground-floor commercial uses in residential developments near transit, except at BRT stops and major intersections

Who will benefit?

It’s hard to tell – yet. City plans anticipate thousands of new homes built along the city’s key transit corridors – but just two higher-density residential projects have been completed along the city’s primary bus corridor – the Q (Route 1) – since frequencies increased in 2017, with three more under construction at the moment. All projects in the pipeline are affordable – which means they benefit from a density bonus that allows developers to get around the current caps on densities outside of downtown.


Along with the One Fresno Housing Strategy package, there are hearings on Fresno County’s housing element and the U.S. Department of Housing’s Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report. 

City council members are also expected to vote on contracts with homeless shelter operators and take action on properties owned by the city that could become affordable housing in the future.

Fresno’s city council meeting will take place Thursday at 9 a.m. The public can watch and participate online at Fresno.legistar.com or in person at Fresno City Hall. 

Editors’ disclosure: Fresnoland receives funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, who also funds the Central Fresno Neighborhood Trust. Additionally, Christine Barker, who is on the leadership team for the Central California Community Land Trust, serves on the Fresnoland Board of Directors.

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.

I created Fresnoland so we can make policy public for everyone.

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