Rents in Fresno, which has long been considered as California’s most cheap city, have risen significantly year over year. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, rents have been rapidly rising, putting thousands of households in risk of being displaced or becoming homeless.
According to Apartment List, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Fresno in February was $1,056 per month. A two-bedroom apartment cost roughly $1,315 per month. Rents in Fresno are beginning to level off after a strong rise. The approach used by Apartment List considers historical rents from the Census American Community Survey as well as genuine contract rents for freshly leased apartments. Many renters have told Fresnoland/Fresno Bee that their rents are rising year after year.
WHO CAN AFFORD TO RENT IN THESE NEW MARKETS?
Only people employed in two of the top ten most prevalent occupations in Fresno — healthcare and educational professionals — earn enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment for $1,315 per month, according to a Fresnoland analysis of average incomes for common Fresno jobs. Six of the ten most prevalent vocations can afford the $1,056 monthly median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in February.
New warehouse facilities and manufacturing employment have been hailed by Fresno municipal officials as critical to the city’s economic growth and mobility. However, the average yearly pay for production and manufacturing workers are around $40,700 a year — and $39,813 for transportation and warehousing workers — which is insufficient to cover the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment. They are able to live in one-bedroom apartments.
Approximately 60% of Fresno renters are “cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent.
Virginia (last name withheld for security reasons), an office assistant at a local hospital, has seen the rent on her three-bedroom home in the Hoover High area rise from $1,400 to $1,695 a month, forcing her and her fiance, who works in construction, to make difficult choices between food, utilities, and medicine for her lupus diagnosis.
“Because I’m employed, I’m not qualified for all of the programs that they have to aid with food and PG&E, so we just turn everything off.” She stated, “It’s always ‘turn off the lights’ and ‘don’t wash your clothing.'”
LOW-WAGE WORK IS EVERYWHERE.
According to a 2018 study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, more than 41% of all workers in Fresno County work in low-wage jobs. A “low-wage job” is defined as one that pays less than $14.35 per hour.
The state’s Employment Development Department predicts that the lowest-wage industries, including as retail, waiting tables, farm work, and home health care, would continue to have the most job opportunities through 2028. Higher-paying positions as healthcare professionals, such as nurses and physician assistants, are in high demand and are expected to rise rapidly.
This information, combined with significant levels of income disparity, has led the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. to declare Fresno to be one of the least economically inclusive cities in the country.
“There’s a gap between what workers make and what they need to prevent chronic housing and food poverty,” Edward Flores, a sociology professor at the UC Merced Community and Labor Center, said.
More than a third of workers in the San Joaquin Valley earn less than a living wage, according to Flores’ research. In Kings County, up to 44% of workers earn less than the minimum wage.
“Industry leaders frequently suggest that (minimum-wage jobs) are a stepping stone, or positions for youngsters, part-time workers, or inexperienced workers,” Flores added. “However, the data does not support that.”
Rising rents have prevented Katreena (last name removed for security reasons), a local teacher, and her husband, who works in information technology, from purchasing a property. Their two-bedroom Tower District apartment rent has risen from $1,200 per month in December 2018 to $1,375 per month presently.
“It’s ridiculous.” I’ve spent my entire life doing exactly what I was supposed to do — getting my master’s degree, doing everything correctly — and I still can’t afford a home.”