Every voter in Fresno should put their city councilmember on notice.

In a region where many people can ill afford it, rents are rising faster than anywhere else in the country —  frustrating efforts to house homeless people and putting a crushing burden on poor families.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen


There isn’t enough clean, safe affordable rental housing in Fresno. As a result, rents are soaring, and with no other place to go, families are forced to live in squalor.

Cracking down on slumlords, as the city is doing, can make things better.

But the biggest contributor to the problem is the city council’s lack of commitment to clearing the way for affordable housing projects.

It’s hard enough to build in California, what with its endless regulation, but Fresno’s challenges are heightened by political infighting, an inability to agree on a vision for the city, and a perpetual tug-of-war between city and county leaders.

Will Council Shoot Down Affordable Housing Project Today?

Exhibit A: The city council is expected to withdraw today from a deal to convert the former UMC Hospital into 800 residences — 40% of them designated as “affordable.” The project involves a three-way partnership among a private developer, the city, and the county.

Obviously, the proposal is a win-win, as it would beautify a longtime eyesore and bring much-needed housing to southeast Fresno. But now councilman Nelson Esparza is leading the charge to scuttle the project because of murky claims about a conflict of interest.

Decades ago, my Fresno Bee colleague Jim Wasserman, dubbed the city’s failure of leadership “the Fresno Factor.”

To be fair, every city has its political shortcomings. But there are few other places in America where citizens are so constantly betrayed and abused by their political leaders.

Fresno Should Be Booming

Fresno should be one of the most prosperous cities in America. It has a fantastic climate and a fantastic location in the center of the state’s $3.1 trillion economy. It also has a solid economic base with agriculture.

But our city and county leaders long have been more interested in retaining their power and maintaining the status quo than in tackling the big challenges holding us back: poverty, racism, and the lack of educational attainment.

Every politician who runs for office claims to be a problem-solver. Scant few in Fresno have fulfilled that promise.

Job One for the Fresno City Council at today’s 3 p.m. special meeting is finding a way to greenlight the UMC Hospital project and the 800 housing units it would provide.

Anything less is confirmation that this city council is more interested in playing politics than helping residents.

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