A recently upgraded, investor-owned apartment at the Maroa Palace Apartments on Maroa Avenue in the Fresno High neighborhood is available for lease on August 1, 2023. Credit: Danielle Bergstrom / Fresnoland

What's at stake?

Most apartments in Fresno County are at risk of becoming unaffordable for lower-income residents.

A recent California Housing Partnership report found that 69% of apartments in Fresno County are at risk of becoming unaffordable for people making lower incomes. It’s the highest risk of any county in the state.

In a place like Fresno, where public housing or other forms of government-subsidized housing are uncommon, older, less maintained apartment buildings and mobile home parks often become what experts refer to as “naturally occurring affordable housing,” given that they’ve historically been available at a price below market rate.

Why it matters: “Not doing anything about naturally occurring affordable housing is part of the reason the affordable housing crisis is getting worse – we’re losing more (homes) than we’re building,” said Matt Schwartz, CEO of the California Housing Partnership, who authored the report.

According to the report, Fresno County has nearly 17,000 homes at risk of becoming unaffordable for the 36,000 low-income renters. The study specifically looked at apartments in buildings with at least five homes.

Funding for affordable housing in Fresno has significantly increased recently, up to $350 million last year, and around 500 new affordable homes have been approved.

However, it remains difficult to keep up with the pace of demand.

Since the Fresno Housing Authority opened its housing choice voucher waitlist in June – a key affordability program for lower-income tenants – over 10,000 applied after just the first day.

Behind the numbers: Rents have been increasing in Fresno since the early days of the pandemic in 2020. Fresno’s rental vacancy rate – a measure of the number of empty homes – has steadily declined since 2010, according to a CHPC analysis.

Real estate experts have said that coastal migration to Fresno County during the pandemic could be pushing up housing prices.

Tenant organizations in Fresno, along with a city consultant, have pointed to these trends as a reason for the Fresno City Council to enact a rent stabilization policy. California also has an ‘anti-rent gouging law’ that prevents landlords from raising rents more than 10% each year.

But Mayor Jerry Dyer and several council members have staunchly opposed any local rent control or stabilization, saying such a policy could stifle new construction or discourage landlords from investing in their units, creating more slum housing.

This report comes as the homeless population in Fresno and Madera Counties climbed to a 10-year high – in part driven by skyrocketing rent prices, said Laura Moreno, the chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, to Fresnoland in an email.

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