What's at stake?
The city of Fresno has an affordable housing shortage and seeks state funds to close this gap.
One week after Fresno city leaders shot down an affordable housing project proposal in northwest Fresno following controversy around a project partner, city leaders approved the same project with new partners.
On Thursday, the Fresno City Council approved an application for $25 million in state funds in partnership with Valley Teen Ranch — a nonprofit founded in the 1980s by Youth for Christ Volunteers. The nonprofit, which has experience as a foster family agency and in operating transitional living homes, will partner with the city to build and operate permanent affordable housing for youth and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The project was approved unanimously without discussion.
The proposed multi-family project would build a 96-unit affordable housing complex on a four-acre property and include four two-story residential buildings and amenities such as laundry facilities and a community center.
If approved for state funding, the project would be located in northwest Fresno’s District 2, represented by Mike Karbassi, at 6507 N. Polk Ave.
In a 4-2 vote last Thursday, the city council shot down the same project in partnership with the ACTS Foundation after some council leaders questioned the foundation’s track record. Multiple written public comments submitted to the city of Fresno criticized Kevin Foster, the head of ACTS Foundation and the pastor of LifeBridge Church. Allegations include financial mismanagement, misuse of funds, gender discrimination, and staff turnover.
Councilmember Miguel Arias said while the comments were “simply claims,” the council had never received that kind of feedback on a city housing partner before. Council Vice President Annalisa Perea said the entity in question has a record of being “very anti-LGBTQ.”
Perea requested last week that city staff look into working with a new co-applicant. She said she approves of the new partners.
“Valley Teen Ranch is a reputable organization and has the right experience to be the city’s co-applicant in pursuit of this grant,” Perea said in a text to The Bee/Fresnoland on Thursday. “This pivot to a more experienced organization is in the best interest for those they’ll be serving and for our city taxpayers.”
City spokesperson Sontaya Rose confirmed in a text message to The Bee/Fresnoland on Thursday that while the ACTS Foundation is no longer a partner on the project, they have “an agreement to purchase the land” where the proposed site is located. The foundation, Rose said, “is discussing assigning their ownership to VTR (Valley Teen Ranch).”
If approved for state funding, the city has also committed $2.8 million in funding for the project.