Fresno City Hall photo by Breanna Hardy
Written by Breanna Hardy
Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer announced Monday that both landlords and tenants are eligible for rental assistance from an allocated $35 million.
Fresno’s combined $35 million comes from both state and federal governments for Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA).
Of the $35 million, about $15 million are federal funds and $19 million are state funds. The state and federal guidelines work in conjunction with each other.
With the city’s funds, it will pay 80% of eligible tenants’ past-due rent. The landlords must agree to accept the city’s funds as payment on the condition they will forgive the remaining 20%.
“It would be my recommendation to encourage landlords to accept that 80%,” Dyer said.
Ten city employees will be tasked with contacting landlords and tenants.
“We know that our community is hurting. It’s been a very, very tough year. As many of you know, 2020 can be categorized as a year from hell for the City of Fresno, but we’re getting through it. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. These resources are going to really help our community get back on their feet,” said Luis Chavez, Fresno City Council president.
Dyer said the program is for renters who earn at or below 80% of the area median income and who have experienced a loss of income due to Covid-19. For a family of four, that would mean $50,350 or less. For a single person, it would be $39,150; for two people it would be $44,750 or less to apply.
“We know that there are a lot of people in need, so we’re going to be prioritizing those with an area median income of 50% or less, and then we will transition beyond that to those who make less than 80%,” Dyer said.
For landlords who choose not to participate in the program, the city will still pay eligible tenants 25% of back rent from April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 to protect renters through Senate Bill 91. Under SB 91, renters who pay at least 25% of rent during the designated period are barred from eviction. But that program ends in June.
“It’s a joint effort. The landlords need the tenant information that they’re eligible with their income,” said Chris Montelongo, deputy chief of staff for the City of Fresno.
Landlords qualify through tenants. But if the landlords do not participate in the program, the tenants still have the ability to apply.
“That’s why we really want to encourage owners to participate because there are a lot of people that have had a very difficult year. They lost jobs, they are working less. We even have families moving in with families just to make ends meet,” said Montelongo.
He said it’s incumbent upon these mom-and-pop owners — which make up about 80% of Fresno’s landlords — to take advantage of the relief.
As of 8 a.m. on Monday, the City of Fresno already had four applications turned in, and Dyer predicts the city will be inundated with applications as the week progresses.
The city is partnering with six community based organizations: Jakara Movement, The Fresno Center, Reading and Beyond, Centro La Familia, Education & Leadership Foundation, and West Fresno Family Resource Center.
Montelongo said the organizations have already been the hands and feet of those in need.
“This program is specifically focused again, more on the landlords, again to help the tenants,” he said.
According to those registered with the Rental Housing Registry, there are 85,000 rental units in the City of Fresno. An estimated 8,000 families are experiencing financial risk paying rent.
Prospective rent is eligible for funding, but it will be the last priority after those who are backlogged. The funds need to be expended by Sept. 30. Of the $19 million in state funds, 65% must be committed by June 1.
Those hoping to apply can go to era.fresno.gov or call 559-621-6801 for more questions.