A Youth Perspective On Fresno’s Rising Rent Costs

Photo by Ashens Limon

At the start of the pandemic, rent in Fresno was already at an all-time high. However, with the addition of the world facing another economic downturn, rent has continued skyrocketing, pushing many out of their homes. Regardless of the COVID eviction moratorium that lasted from the start of the pandemic through last September, many have still been forced onto the streets. 

Although it’s true that many individuals have been let go due to the pandemic, there is still a large number of people in Fresno who have been struggling even before COVID emerged. As a result, laws such as rent relief and the COVID moratorium have done nothing to assist the poverty-stricken residents of Fresno County.

From 2015 to 2019, Fresno County has been in the bottom 25% of California cities to have the worst levels of poverty. We still continue to float at the bottom 25% regardless of the little housing help we have.

As of the beginning of 2022, prices have increased up to 22% compared to the previous year according to the real-estate site Redfin. If this trend continues, we will begin to see rent in Fresno being comparable to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

As a young person, seeing rent getting higher and minimum wage staying the same, I’m fearful for what the future of housing will bring. It’s hard to imagine being able to one day buy a house in Fresno without making over $100K a year. Starting my life, buying a home, and having a family seems impossible. As a college student, I’m already struggling to pay for the bus every day. I recognize that one day I’ll have to move out of my mom’s house, but looking at this climate, I’m afraid I won’t be able to survive it. 

One-bedroom apartments in Fresno have increased to a median price of $1,400. Being a part-time worker making minimum wage income, it’s nearly impossible to afford rent, utilities, and food. Even if the minimum wage increases to $15 an hour, it is still not enough to live off of. 

In the last 40 years, fewer young adults have been moving out of their parent’s households. This isn’t because young people are lazy, but because there’s no other choice financially. You either live with your parents or paycheck to paycheck. 

As a college student, moving out and starting life on my own is supposed to be exciting. But seeing the state of rent here in Fresno, I’m not so optimistic. 

Looking back, the whole dynamic of being a young adult has changed. Students’ priorities aren’t just their grades or if we’ll get into our top college; now our stress relates to how we will afford our future.

The problem is, with financial aid being available to students, it might take some weight off their shoulders, but not by a lot. It may aid in buying books or paying for a couple of trips to the grocery store, but what happens when it runs out halfway through the semester?  

It’s not uncommon to see residents flee Fresno due to the increase in rent and threat of eviction. The rise of rent has done more than kick a few people out of their homes or put stress on students; it has ruined lives, families, and schools.

Fresno policymakers have allowed families to be forced onto the streets or into their cars with nowhere to live. We are living in a housing crisis. 

The economy leaves many students in despair about what the future has to come. College students aren’t just battling student debt; now it’s the uncertainty of housing. Young people today aren’t confident in being renters or homeowners, and if rent continues to rise, young people will have no choice but to live in their parent’s house, if they’re lucky.

To combat Fresno from topping the list of the nation’s highest increasing rent, local policymakers need to implement some sort of stability for Fresno renters. Implementing policies such as rent stabilization in the City of Fresno would keep occupants secure and young people hopeful. Rent stabilization would dodge rent increasing extreme amounts and would ensure the protection of Fresno tenants.

Fresno needs to step up and implement policies to help fight the rise of evictions and houseless people. Renters deserve security; even allowing a right to counsel (the right to a lawyer if evicted) is a push in the right direction.

There’s so many things that Fresno residents are pushing for yet we are seeing only silence from people like Mayor Jerry Dyer and the rest of the city council. I ask that we follow behind so many other California cities and push policies to stabilize rent and secure tenants.

Ashens Limon (he/him/his)

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