Apartment rents are up almost 19% in Fresno since 2016. What does it cost to rent here?

The average cost to rent an apartment in Fresno rose slightly between August and September, as the city remained one of the least-expensive California cities in which to rent.

At $1,089 per month, the average apartment rent reported this week by RentCafe.com for the Fresno market was the sixth-lowest price among 79 cities in the state for which apartments represent a significant share of the housing. In fact, all nine of the California cities with the lowest average rental prices are in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley.

While the month-to-month price rose by just three-tenths of a percent from August to September, the year-over-year cost is up by 6.1% compared to September 2018. Since September 2016, when the average rent was $917 per month, the figure has increased by $172, or almost 19%

The RentCafe analysis includes market-rate apartments in buildings or complexes with at least 50 units. It does not include subsidized affordable housing for low-income households.

But Fresno’s average rental cost – relatively low compared to places like San Francisco and other Bay Area communities where the average apartment goes for more than $3,000 a month – doesn’t necessarily mean it’s affordable in an area where a large proportion of jobs are in low-paying occupations and the average wage is lower than much of the rest of California.

A report issued this week by the California Housing Partnership indicates most low-income households cannot afford even modest rents in many California counties. In Fresno County, the report shows the area median income for a three-person household is $58,400. For a family to be able to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, they would need to make at least 79% of that income figure – or about $46,136.

For families defined by federal housing income guidelines as very low-income, earning 50% or less of the area median, rents are affordable only in Modoc County, in the extreme northeastern corner of California. Households with extremely low incomes of 30% or less of the area median cannot afford a modest market-rate apartment in any California county, according to the report.

The methodology used in the California Housing Partnership report points to “modest” rents as the price at which 40% of apartments in the area are cheaper and 60% are more expensive.

Fresno has a total rental-housing inventory of more than 81,600 units, according to a database established under the city’s 2017 Rental Housing Improvement Program. The database, which provides a basis for periodic inspections and possible enforcement of code violations, includes large and small apartment complexes, duplexes, triplexes and almost 24,000 single-family homes that are rented out by their owners.

The database, partially released last month under a California Public Records Act request from The Bee, shows that there are 260 apartment complexes with 50 or more units, accounting for 35,094 individual apartments.

Search Fresno’s rental inventory

Fresno’s rental housing registry, partially released to The Fresno Bee by the city of Fresno under a California Public Records Act request, includes nearly 28,000 properties with more than 81,600 individual rental units throughout the city. The Bee has compiled the information into a searchable database (see below):

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Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319, @TimSheehanNews

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.