Fresno code enforcement targets substandard housing
In under one year, Fresno’s new Rental Housing Registry has reached 85,000 units registered, making it easier for city officials and inspectors to identify good and bad property owners.
The registry was launched in January 2018, and later that year, the city began mailing notices to property owners alerting them to sign up.
Failure to register results in late fees ranging from $100 to $1,000. Property owners also could register voluntarily before receiving a notice. The city has an estimated 93,000 rental units.
Housing experts estimated if the city reached 80,000 units on the registry, it would be considered as populated as possible, City Manager Wilma Quan said in a news release about the registry milestone.
“Our dream of having an accurate, comprehensive registry of Fresno’s rental units is now a reality,” said Mayor Lee Brand in the news release.
“This ambitious program, which was created from scratch by a talented local team, has now become the gold standard for cities around California that want to safeguard and improve their housing stock to provide decent, safe and sanitary residential rental units for the community.”
City staff worked with Bitwise Industries to create the registry from scratch. It launched about a year after the City Council approved Brand’s Rental Housing Improvement Act.
In May 2016, The Bee highlighted substandard housing in Fresno in a special report called “Living in Misery.” It found that units all over the city are unlivable, affecting thousands of renters, but landlords go without penalty because of the city’s lack of oversight.
“Our Rental Housing team has exceeded expectations once again, allowing our program to efficiently reward good property owners and quickly identify the bad ones,” Quan said.
Housing advocates were happy to hear the registry is nearly complete, saying it’s the first step to cleaning up rental properties in the city. They also acknowledged the hard work by city staffers.
“More importantly for the tenants who have been waiting years for action, we are encouraged that the routine health and safety inspections have begun and reports that hundreds of violations have already been found and corrected,” said Andy Levine, with Faith in the Valley - Fresno.
“This is huge for those hundreds of tenants, but it is also only scratching the surface, with thousands more inspections still to go. We urge the mayor and his team to continue prioritizing the neighborhoods that are in most urgent need of protection and to scale up the pace of inspections for all our vulnerable neighbors out there who are still trapped in unsafe and unhealthy living conditions.”
Patience Milrod, another housing advocate and longtime Fresno social justice attorney, said it’s also important to monitor whether property owners are raising rents after making mandatory health and safety repairs.
“What happens to rents between pre-inspection and post-inspection?” she said. “They should not be increasing rent for just coming into compliance with the law. But currently, the city does not collect this information.”
The registry can be found online at www.fresno.gov/rentalhousing.