Mayor of Fresno, California releases strategy to address housing crisis

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Barbara Smith, who has been chronically homeless for 10 years, attends a housing needs rally at Fresno City Hall on Friday, March 4.

cgaribay@fresnobee.com

During the pandemic, Fresno has become one of the nation’s hottest housing markets, leaving many households unable to keep up with the city’s historically affordable cost.

On Friday, Mayor Jerry Dyer released his long-awaited “One Fresno Housing Strategy” to deal with the growing acute crisis.

The nearly 150-page document includes 47 priority policies, which focus on building more affordable housing, but also easing restrictions on developers to build more market-priced housing – historically grouped into single-family developments on the outskirts of town. The plan proposes 24 additional policies to address homelessness.

The mayor’s office estimates the three-year plan will cost nearly $260 million to implement — $101,645,000 for affordable housing and $158,184,000 for unhoused services.

The city council is holding a special meeting on Wednesday to begin discussions and get public input on the Here to Stay strategy and report, a plan recommended by the Thrivance Group that aims to avoid travel in the city.

“We know these challenges weren’t created overnight in our city, so this is going to take us all,” said Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy, who worked on the report. “And that’s part of the goal of the plan: to be very specific about the unique needs of our community, explain them very clearly to the community, and then invite everyone to be part of the solution.”

What are the needs of the community?

The report presents a picture of a housing market that is noticeably disconnected from Fresno’s demographics: young, predominantly working-class, and unable to buy, let alone rent, a typical new home in the Clovis or Central Schools watershed. Unified.

“If we were to wave a magic wand and match household size to unit types, we find that the existing unit types we have that are available do not match the unit type demand,” Grundy said.

The report says the city has overbuilt the number of single-family homes by more than 28,000 homes.

According to the report, the City of Fresno needs:

  • 21,001 units for tenants who cannot afford more than $500 per month so as not to be overburdened with costs.

  • 7,139 additional units that serve renters who can afford $500 to $1,000 per month.

  • More than 2,500 additional emergency shelter beds.

  • 2,500 additional tiny houses to meet the needs of the unprotected community.

For Fresno to meet the state’s housing production goals, known as the RHNA number, the city should plan to license 10,051 additional homes by the end of 2023 — a goal officials acknowledge is incredibly hard to reach. Over the past 20 years, Fresno has licensed about 1,000 to 2,000 homes per year, a cyclical number that follows national housing market trends.

What are the mayor’s goals?

The Mayor’s Housing Strategy sets a goal to build, preserve or rehabilitate 6,926 affordable housing units and encourage the development of 4,110 market-priced units over the next three years.

Under that goal, 4,695 affordable homes would be added to Fresno’s housing stock by 2025 — about 1,700 of which are already in the works, according to Grundy.

The report says about a quarter of the planned affordable homes built will be for households that can afford between $500 and $1,000 a month.

The city also hopes to create 2,231 affordable housing units for homeless community members who earn less than 50% of the region’s median income.

Although new affordable homes would put an “unprecedented” dent in Fresno’s housing crisis, a gap in affordable housing supply and affordable housing need will always exist. Grundy said the mayor’s goals needed to be “bold, but at the same time realistic.”

“This (One Fresno Housing Strategy) is not the silver bullet. We didn’t get into our current housing situation overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight,” Grundy said. “It’s kind of like Stage 1 because we see it as part of a longer effort.”

Another key part of the plan is to encourage the transition of 8,000 single-family home rentals to affordable homeownership options. The report specifically mentions long-term rentals as an area of ​​single-family homes that can suppress homeownership opportunities for those who live locally.

What’s in the housing plan and what’s not?

The housing plan divides the 47 policies into four categories: housing preservation, housing production, displacement prevention and equity promotion.

The strategy relies heavily on incentivizing the production and rehabilitation of affordable housing – through grants, loans or easing restrictions on the construction of all types of housing, rather than firm regulations such as rent control – to achieve desired housing production and affordability goals.

However, one strategy included in the plan – inclusive zoning – relies on the requirement that developers reserve affordable housing in developments at the market rate. The plan calls for approximately 390 new affordable housing units to be built at no cost to the city through this policy, if passed by city council.

The plan also includes a recommendation to increase the city’s housing trust fund to $1.5 million a year — which the plan says will produce about 100 new homes.

But the majority of new affordable housing built under the plan will depend on historic investments in federal and state housing programs, including HOME, CDBG and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.

About a dozen of the policy recommendations seek to continue efforts already underway, such as the Eviction Protection Program or the Emergency Housing Assistance Program. Most of the recommendations, however, would require further action by the city council.

While the housing strategy includes 15 policies that were recommended in the Here to Stay report – which will also be discussed on Wednesday – the plan is silent on stabilization or rent control, a policy around which justice organizers of the housing centered their activism.

Grundy said the city administration’s plan focuses on the lack or mismatch of supply and demand.

“Instead of band-aiding, we’re going to the root,” Grundy said of why rent control wasn’t part of the strategy. “If we are able to create a more conducive environment for adding affordable housing supply, that will really solve some of the problems.”

What are the next steps?

Grundy said the plan’s unveiling Wednesday at the special city council hearing will kick off a discussion about how to prioritize policies and develop an implementation plan.

“It’s like a roadmap,” Grundy said. “He says, ‘OK, these are things that the administration recommends moving forward. “”

He said that although the plan is presented under one strategic umbrella, each policy recommendation “will have its day in court, if you will”, and most of the recommendations will be voted on by the council, according to the report.

According to Grundy, the report draws from other local housing reports, such as Faith in the Valley’s “Evicted in Fresno” report or the Thrivance Group’s “Fresno Here to Stay” report, as well as public comments from meetings. past public.

It is unclear at this time if there will be other ways for people to submit comments on the report, or if the only comments made during public comment periods at city council meetings will be heard.

Grundy did not specify how the policies will be prioritized, saying only that the administration will consider what city council and the public have to say and indicated how much money should be spent on each recommendation each year. He said the city is already working on some recommendations that await state or federal comment, but did not specify which ones.

“We’ve been very careful not to put specific deadlines on some of them, because it’s a very dynamic housing environment that we find ourselves in,” Grundy said. “We wanted to make sure that we were able to provide some specificity, but also at the same time not engage in things that still need to be sorted through the process with the council, community and staff. »

He added that the plan is meant to be a living document that could change with funding as community needs change.

“We fundamentally believe that everyone should have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home, everyone,” Grundy said.

Those interested in commenting on the plan can attend the hearing Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Fresno City Hall or online here.

This story was originally published April 26, 2022 12:25 p.m.

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