Fresno tenants will have to wait until early next year for the city’s interior housing inspections to start.
The rental housing improvement program, which includes an online database of properties and tenant and property owner education, was proposed to start in September.
But the hiring process has been slow and the city is sorting through digital issues with the database, said Kelli Furtado, assistant director of the development and resource management department tasked with creating the program.
The city is working with Bitwise Industries on the online registry for an estimated 93,000 rental housing units, up from the previously reported 85,000 units.
“I’m thinking it will probably be February to March,” for the program to start, Furtado said during a City Council meeting Thursday. “We want to do a soft launch successfully before we do a full launch. I anticipate a soft launch as early as December,” she said.
The city has been looking for a way to hold landlords accountable for rental units that are unsafe and unhealthy since November 2015, when 1,000 low-income tenants at Summerset Village Apartments in central Fresno went without heat and hot water for weeks.
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.
The City Council approved the inspection plan in February to tackle substandard rental housing, but Thursday was the first program update for many housing advocates, tenants and property owners.
“The fact that it’s not starting till next year is disappointing, but not surprising” given how slow the government process is, said Matthew Jendian, a Fresno State sociology professor and housing advocate. Now that there is a timeline, community organizations and residents have continue putting pressure on the city. “The battle doesn’t end when the ordinance is passed … we have work to do,” Jendian said.
What’s the city’s next steps? To finish hiring inspectors, test the registry and send inspectors on practice runs.
“Many are anxious to have the inspection program fully operational,” said city manager Wilma Quan-Schecter. “We are operating under the same urgency, but our highest priority is ensuring that it is rolled out as efficiently or effectively as possible.”