Housing Blight

These housing inspectors found 4,200 violations. They are investigating 3,700 more

The goal was to clean up a dozen of Fresno’s worst substandard apartments and homes in a year.

The city’s Anti-Slum Enforcement Team, or ASET, tackled 14 that had about 4,200 health and safety violations. That’s more than 450 units with issues like mold, pests, electrical problems, ventilation issues, broken windows and fire damage.

“I am really proud of the work of our small team,” said Kelli Furtado, assistant director of the development and resource management department that oversees ASET. “Over 450 units have been brought into compliance. Four-hundred and fifty families are living in a better place because of this work.”

ASET builds on a code enforcement strike team created at the end of 2015 by then-city manager Bruce Rudd to crack down on blight after residents at Summerset Village Apartments went without heat and hot water for weeks.

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, and landlords were going without penalty because of the city’s lack of oversight.

The investigations were eye-opening, and the volume of violations were overwhelming, Furtado said.

ASET investigators inspected single-family homes and apartments that ranged from four units to 228, mostly in central and southeast Fresno. Violations varied from bad ventilation or none at all in bathrooms, to no locks on front doors and leaky ceilings, Furtado said.

The team, which has six inspectors, a supervisor and help from the city attorney’s office, found that most of the property owners are local, and many “are eager to work with us,” Furtado said.

But others are less cooperative. “For some, they throw their hands up and walk away” from discussions, she said. Others were taken to court through the city’s receivership program. Receivers, whose job is to sell a property to a responsible owner or rehabilitate it and sell it later, have been appointed for four properties, Furtado said.

The city showed off its first successful takeover, at East Olive and Jackson avenues, during a news conference in July. Other completed properties where repairs were made, fees paid or owners agreed to a settlement include Hotel California and the Hayston Avenue property featured in The Bee’s “Living in Misery.”

ASET has another 14 properties under investigation, undergoing repairs or waiting for re-inspections. That’s 320 units with 3,700 violations.

“I know property owners are hearing about the work we are doing,” Furtado said. “I’m hoping the word gets out and that folks will start fixing their properties long before the city knocks on the door and sends a notice to inspect.”

Furtado encourages tenants and the public to keep reporting substandard housing to the city through its FresoGo app. “If we don’t receive a complaint, we don’t know about it.”

BoNhia Lee: 559-441-6495, @bonhialee

Reporting rental housing problems in Fresno

The city has a FresGO website and mobile phone app that residents can use to report code enforcement issues and blighted properties. On the web: https://iframe.publicstuff.com/#?client_id=806#picker-top

On mobile phones: The FresGO app is available as a free download for both Android phones and Apple iPhones, through the Google Play store for Android and the Apple app store. Click “new request,” then select “substandard housing/building violations.” There are also options for “code violations on private property” and “vacant and blighted property.”

By telephone: 559-621-2489.