While the housing market in many parts of the country took a hit during the pandemic, Fresno’s developers saw a spike in demand, making the Central Valley city “the nation’s hottest housing market.” Since 2017, Fresno has seen the country’s largest rent increases, reports Liam Dillon in the Los Angeles Times. “California’s fifth-biggest city, it’s an agricultural powerhouse on the doorstep of Yosemite National Park but often is thought of as a highway rest stop midway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.”
Yet in the last four years, “average rent for homes in Fresno is up nearly 39% to $1,289 a month,” including a 12% increase during the COVID-19 pandemic—”the opposite of what has occurred in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco, where rents have plummeted.” In a city where more than a quarter of people live below the poverty line, the rising housing costs “have become a crushing burden to the region’s tens of thousands of low-income families.” Despite more people moving out than moving into the city in 202, Fresno’s housing prices have continued to rise. “Many blue-collar and service workers and farmworkers who lost their jobs amid the pandemic are facing possible eviction and feel trapped in substandard homes because higher costs elsewhere make it impossible for them to leave.”
“Local politicians and housing advocates say the situation is the result of gaps and failures in the city’s housing market that have built up over decades and have yet to be reformed after the mortgage foreclosure crisis nearly 15 years ago,” writes Dillon. Despite the region’s high rate of population growth, construction has been stagnant since the Great Recession. “The average home value in Fresno is now nearly $300,000, according to real estate firm Zillow, having risen almost as fast as rents over the last four years.” With record low availability for rental units, “rental housing for tenants at all income levels is in extremely short supply.” Estimates put Fresno’s housing shortage at over 35,000 units, and low-income households are bearing the brunt of the crisis.