The city of Fresno on Wednesday launched its online rental housing registry and called on property owners and managers to sign up in a required first step to tackle substandard housing conditions.
Property owners of apartment complexes and single-family rented homes have 30 days from the receipt of a notice mailed from the city to register online. But owners and property managers also can register voluntarily at fresno.gov/rentalhousing.
There is no charge to get on the registry. But failure to register could result in late fees ranging from $100 to $1,000. The city has an estimated 93,000 rental units.
“I made a promise to the people of Fresno to dramatically improve our housing stock and substantially reduce substandard housing,” Mayor Lee Brand said Wednesday.
“I’m especially proud of the finished product because it’s one of the most ambitious things the city has ever done.”
The city has looked for ways to hold landlords accountable for rentals 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. But the city’s substandard housing problem has existed for more than 20 years, Brand said.
I’m especially proud of the finished product because it’s one of the most ambitious things the city has ever done.
Mayor Lee Brand
In May 2016, The Bee highlighted substandard housing in Fresno in a special investigative 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.
Nearly a year ago the City Council passed the Rental Housing Improvement Act to create a database of properties, offer tenant education and implement routine interior inspections of rental units.
Housing advocates expected the program to begin in September and criticized the city when the program launch was delayed. But city officials said the hiring process for its new inspection team was slow, and the city also wanted to work out all the kinks with the online database before launching it.
“It’s more important to get it right than to get it right now,” Brand said. “We’re now ready to start the registry process with the ultimate goal to protect the residents, honor our good landlords and put the bad ones on notice.”
The registry was created by Shift3 Technologies at Bitwise. Members of the California Apartment Association reviewed the database, offered suggestions and allowed the city to run test inspections on properties, said Greg Terzakis, the association’s senior vice president.
Inspections will likely follow in a couple months and will be carried out by the Rental Housing Division, the mayor said. The division has hired seven inspectors and is looking to fill four more positions.
“Getting (the registry) fully and accurately populated is an essential component of a successful program that can be implemented in the coming weeks,” said Kelli Furtado, assistant director of the development and resource management department.
Our families have lived in misery long enough.
Lety Valencia, organizer for Faith in the Valley
Faith in the Valley, a grassroots organization that represents around 120 congregations in the central San Joaquin Valley, is encouraged by the launch of the registry. But “this first step took almost a year since the program was passed and our families had to endure yet another winter in substandard housing,” said organizer Lety Valencia.
“We pray the city of Fresno will not continue to delay and (will) start the proactive inspections as urgently and efficiently as possible. Our families have lived in misery long enough.”
Rental Registry Technical Assistance
1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 23 and Feb. 21
Fresno City Hall, 2600 Fresno St., first floor computer lab #1054. Parking meters around city hall will be relaxed.
Rental Housing Improvement Program Informational Workshop
10 a.m. to noon Jan. 23 and Feb. 20
Fresno City Hall Council Chambers, 2600 Fresno St. Parking meters will be relaxed.