We are advocates, leaders, parents, and we are just two of the thousands of Fresno residents who are experiencing a housing crisis. For years, we’ve dedicated countless hours to improving our schools, our neighborhoods, our air and more. We do this not just for our families, but for all communities in Fresno, because everyone deserves a chance for dignified housing, clean air, and healthy communities. After years of advocating for the most basic needs and minimal changes, it seems Fresno doesn’t want us here.
We live in homes that are full of mold, homes that are deteriorating, and landlords that don’t seem to be in a rush to fix these issues. We are afraid to report housing issues to city law enforcement for fear of retaliation and eviction.
And even with a lack of repairs and uninhabitable conditions, our rents have continued to rise since we moved in. From $650 to $950 or from $360 to $689; every year our rents go up more and more and we keep paying them, and the apartments stay in the same condition or worse.
We tried to look elsewhere, but everything is overpriced. We dream of owning our homes, of providing for our children, of living in healthy environments. We hope to see that one day, but we can’t afford to wait. We continue to place the health and well-being of our family in the hope that our elected leaders will act.
For nearly a decade we have engaged in housing plans, budget processes and every other opportunity to share our concerns and solutions to improve the housing situation in Fresno, and year after year we see the same inaction. Fast forward to the final years of the pandemic and our city, which was already overstretched with housing, is now beginning to evict many of our friends and neighbors, who cannot afford $100 or $200 rent increases.
With a 28% increase over last year, the median price of a bedroom is now $1,410. It’s too high. And while Fresno rents continue to rise, wages remain stagnant and the pandemic has exacerbated many of the issues Fresnans face. Fresno is reputed to have one of the hottest rental markets in the state, but what’s not shared is how our longtime neighbors and friends are being displaced and losing their homes as these trends continue. Tenants are faced with the choice of staying and paying exorbitant rents or leaving their homes.
And for those who want to become homeowners, that dream is also becoming increasingly out of reach. According to CalMatters, the average home now sells for $331,000. An unattainable price for many residents who lack the necessary credit, savings, wages or immigration status. And those prices are only expected to rise further.
But all hope is not lost as the City of Fresno has the historic opportunity to implement meaningful housing policies for all thanks to the Here to Stay report. It contains 46 comprehensive housing policies that were developed in partnership with the public and extensive research to reduce and prevent displacement in Fresno. It includes policies on improving our local minimum wage, expanding homeownership opportunities and creating more affordable housing.
With Fresno facing some of the highest rent increases in the nation – ranking No. 1 for the highest rent increase in 2021 – the stakes have never been higher.
The Here to Stay report further identifies 10 policies and programs that our Mayor and City Council could and should adopt now to help alleviate many pressing housing pressures. Of these, we want to see the following implemented as soon as possible:
1. Rent control
2. Right to a lawyer
3. Landlord and Tenant Assistance Programs
This report can help ensure landlords and renters are protected, provide tools for Fresno families to build generational wealth, and support our homeless community by ensuring they receive the services and resources they need. . The report was finalized in October, and it is now up to our elected officials to take action and move the Here to Stay report forward.
Our municipal leaders continue to acknowledge that Fresno is going through a homelessness and housing crisis, but are taking no meaningful action for their constituents. The time has come and tenants can’t afford to wait any longer. Will the city finally mobilize?
Esther Ortega and Martha Leon live in Fresno