Our mayor and the Fresno City Council need to be commended for having the courage to address the lack of affordable and quality housing.
The depth of the situation was explored by The Fresno Bee’s Living In Misery series, which exposed the volume of substandard housing pervasive in our city.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin recently put forth an ordinance for the City Council to debate on Thursday and vote on Dec. 15. I applaud the mayor for doing her due diligence in putting forward a well-thought-out ordinance – one that doesn’t please everyone, but does incorporate public input from a yearlong task force. Her proposal reaches a needed compromise. Our city council must now show leadership and adopt this long overdue ordinance.
As an emergency room doctor, I spent my professional career trying to keep my patients healthy and alive. Our state has established health and safety standards for rental housing that many of the units in Fresno do not meet. It is hard to keep people healthy when they are sleeping in conditions that worsen their ailments, including kids with asthma who breathe mold every night. Sadly, the city has been unable to pass legislation that allows for baseline interior inspections.
The mayor’s proposal would establish a proactive inspection process that will evaluate and create a registry from which we can determine if we are meeting the basic health and safety codes.
I toured a number of rental units last week and found many of them without working heaters or running water. With winter approaching, I do not want to see another housing crisis like the one we saw a year ago at Summerset Village. That situation brought light to the deplorable conditions of many of Fresno’s rental units. How many more Summersets have to happen before the council acts?
There is a very real and human cost to our city’s inaction. Substandard housing conditions must be a priority for our community because it affects the health of our residents – many of whom are children, elderly or immigrants. We need a proactive program that ensures the health and safety of all of our residents. It’s time that we hold the bar higher for our rental dwellings and insist that the Fresno City Council pass this ordinance.
As an elected leader, I understand that it is my responsibility to ensure that the government is protecting all people, especially our most vulnerable residents. I urge you to take the time to contact City Council members and speak at the council meeting and remind our local officials that people should not be forced to live in misery.
As Fresnans, let’s ask for our City Council to be leaders on this issue. For the good of our city, the council should work with Mayor Swearengin and pass her Residential Rental Inspection Program. This is a critical step in the right direction.
Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, represents the 31st District in the California Assembly. The district encompasses western Fresno County, including the southern half of the city of Fresno.