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Over the last four years, no large U.S. city has seen greater increases in rent than Fresno.

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. Because of its pollution and poverty, Fresno makes regular appearances on lists of America’s worst places to live.

Yet since 2017, average rent for homes in Fresno is up nearly 39% to $1,289 a month, according to real estate firm Apartment List. That includes a 12% increase during the pandemic, the opposite of what has occurred in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco, where rents have plummeted.

While Fresno’s costs have soared, they’re still low enough to provide a respite for people moving from pricier locales. But they have become a crushing burden to the region’s tens of thousands of low-income families.

The result is that rental housing for tenants at all income levels is in extremely short supply, with available apartments at record lows, according to data from real estate firm CoStar. And the ability to charge higher rents has increased speculation from investors looking to squeeze returns from newly purchased older properties.

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