As the Fresno City Council develops a three-year plan to ease the housing crisis, Mayor Jerry Dyer’s administration is now stepping up to the plate.
For example, the planning and development department is hiring more staff and cutting red tape on housing projects.
The goal, Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy said, is to speed up approvals from the nine months it now takes to three months for projects that meet city standards.
In addition, there are affordable housing projects nearing completion that will add to the inventory.
Dyer and his team made 47 recommendations aimed at stabilizing or reducing rents and expanding the local housing stock. 24 other recommendations focus on reducing homelessness.
“The (recommendations) that don’t require board action, we’re trying to execute right now,” Grundy said.
City of Fresno slowly moving forward with housing
Fifteen of the 47 recommendations in the “One Fresno Housing Strategy” report do not require council approval, Grundy said, because they are either already underway or do not require council-approved funding.
And other priorities are being adequately funded. Rent assistance and eviction protection, for example, have been in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chris Montelongo, Dyer’s deputy chief of staff, told GV Wire the city has handed out $2 million in aid each month since receiving $67 million in emergency rental assistance from the ‘State.
According to Grundy, this funding has not ended and the city should receive further assistance from the ERAP phase three funding.
“There are new dollars in new sources of funding or significant new amounts, historic amounts of funding to come,” Grundy said.
The deputy mayor added that Fresno has a unique opportunity to improve the lives of thousands of residents, so all eyes at City Hall are focused on the task.
“So it’s really important that we meet the timelines in the recommendations that we’ve provided so that we can produce, preserve, rehabilitate a really historic number of units that the city of Fresno has never built (before) in this time lapse. .”
Fresno seeks to balance affordable and market-priced housing
While the city wants to build as much affordable housing as possible, Grundy says market-priced housing is also important to improving the situation.
On average, Fresno develops a total of 1,360 residences at market price per year.
“Our housing strategy calls for the development of 4,110 (over three years,” Grundy said. “So we’re actually suggesting that we need more than what we’ve built in the last three years at the bare minimum in terms of housing at market price.”
He added that a housing analysis of Fresno indicated that the city needs more of each type of housing.
“We need a lot of multi-family rentals, we need two or three bedrooms, we need single-family attached units, things like townhouses, condos, townhouses… that kind of stuff,” Grundy said. “And again, levels of affordability that residents can afford.”
In addition to the 6,926 new affordable housing units envisioned by the city, the city and the county-wide Fresno Housing Authority already have 1,700 affordable housing units in the pipeline for completion within three years.
One such project is the Monarch in Chinatown, which is under construction and scheduled for completion this summer or early fall.
Part of a TCC project, the building will provide 57 affordable housing units with a mix of bachelor, one-, two- and three-bedroom units in council member Miguel Arias’ neighborhood.
State Regs, NIMBYs Pose Hurdles.
Grundy said one of the biggest challenges is coming up with a plan that accelerates the availability of affordable, market-priced housing while navigating the state’s sometimes conflicting goals and regulations.
“People who said, not in my backyard – you can build affordable housing, but not here. This stuff cannot exist for us to achieve these goals. This plan is very doable, but again, it’s going to take all of us. — Deputy Mayor of Fresno, Matthew Grundy
“We know government can be a barrier with bureaucracy to rolling out affordable housing,” Grundy said.
Another hurdle is meeting the desires of both affordable housing advocates and the development community.
“There’s a bit of a misnomer with communities, you know, thinking that the city of Fresno is responsible for all the housing in the city when really we’re depending on the private market, private developers, to provide the units that meet our communities needs,” Grundy said.
Grundy says they also have to deal with NIMBYism.
“People who said, not in my backyard – you can build affordable housing, but not here. This stuff can’t exist for us to achieve these goals,” Grundy said. “This plan is very doable, but again, it’s going to take all of us.”