Written by Frank Lopez
There is some relief on the way to Fresno landlords coming from the most recent federal stimulus package.
The City of Fresno received $15.8 million this week from the federal government to assist residents with housing and utility costs, according to a Jan. 22 news release from Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer.
The funds comes from the stimulus bill signed in December 2020 as a part of the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program, which helps tenants past due on their rent and in desperate need of financial assistance.
This is the second round of federal monies the city has received to help with housing costs. In July 2020, applications were opened for the Fresno Retention Housing Grant program to help struggling residents — $1,500 for an individual or $3,000 per family.
City leaders will discuss how the latest funds will be distributed over the next several weeks.
For this round of funding, however, payments will be made directly to landlords and capped at $5,000 per dwelling.
Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez said Friday the money will bring landlords some financial relief and help people stay in their homes.
Chavez is on an ad hoc subcommittee for spending CARES Act funding. He said on Monday there is going to be a meeting to outline the logistics and process for distributing the funds.
“One of the big conversations that I am going to bring up on Monday is that for me, this money was intended for the small mom-and-pop operators that by way of definition are landlords that have five or less dwellings that they are renting,” Chavez said.
Chavez said 80% of the landlords that are renting in Fresno are considered small operators.
Small operation landlords depend on rent payments to meet mortgage obligations, perform maintenance and pay for utilities such as water and sewage. The nearly $16 million may not make much of a dent in the problem.
“Just from the numbers I’ve seen, I don’t think that’s going to go very far,” Chavez said. “It will get people a couple of months of relief and that’s the expectation — that we can postpone a lot of these people becoming homeless. But the hope is that the economy picks up and people that got laid off can go back to work. This is badly needed help, but it’s really a Band-Aid in the overall economic challenges we will have this year.”
Chavez said that a small operation landlord in his district called him saying that he hasn’t received a single payment from the tenant in the last eight months and is having to pay for the water, sewer and trash services out of pocket.
According to the city’s Rental Housing Inspection database, there are 98,000 rental properties in the City of Fresno. If this one particular landlord is any example, Chavez said the scenario is likely playing out across the city as a whole.
Dyer expects the money will help thousands of residents struggling financially because of the Covid-19 pandemic.