Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
City Hall Disburses Just 3% of $35M Rent Relief Fund
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 3 years ago on
May 14, 2021

Share

The Fresno City Council passed two renter-friendly resolutions at its meeting on Thursday, strengthening rental inspections and providing taxpayer-funded attorneys for eviction defense.

But, trying to distribute $35 million in rental relief funds has been slow. Only about $1 million, or 2.9%, has gone to renters in financial hardship.

“It’s very cumbersome. It’s almost as bad as completing a mortgage application.” — Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias, describing the rent relief application

In a presentation to the council, deputy chief of staff Chris Montelongo said only 4,000 people applied for unpaid rent and utility relief. More than a quarter of those were disqualified for various reasons — mainly because applicants did not live within the city or they were duplicate applications.

Funds have gone to 278 applicants. The average rent relief disbursement is $4,676.

Better Outreach Needed

“It’s very cumbersome. It’s almost as bad as completing a mortgage application,” councilman Miguel Arias said of the process. Several community-based organizations have aided the city in distributing and collecting applications.

Arias said there is a June 15 deadline to distribute two-thirds of the rental aid that Fresno and several other cities are unlikely to meet. The city will ask for an extension.

“We are building this airplane as we fly it,” Arias said.

Several councilmembers and city officials agree more outreach is needed to encourage more applications and help filling out the forms.

“We need a constant reminder,” councilwoman Esmeralda Soria said. She suggested a flyer in the monthly water bill.

Other ideas were billboards and traditional media.

Eviction Protection Passes, but Needs Work

Despite a 6-0 vote, some councilmembers were uncomfortable with the language, or lack thereof, in the Eviction Protection Program.

What the city council passed was a framework of providing defense for residents who face “illegal” eviction. But, the key questions of what that term means, and how to pay for it remain unanswered.

Council president Luis Chavez said he was uncomfortable with the idea of providing money to a private party for a lawsuit. He said even under best scenarios, 48% of eviction defenses lose in court.

“If we can narrow this criteria down to where our city attorney can make an analysis and assessment based on what I just described, with both parties abiding by the rules that were set up, I think we can eliminate a lot of the concerns that I had initially with the original proposal,” Chavez said.

Chavez is willing to try a pilot program.

Councilman Nelson Esparza said the definition of unlawful evictions is defined in law.

“I trust the City Attorney’s office to develop a screening process that matches up against the most current definition of what is considered an unlawful eviction,” Esparza said.

The resolution did not include a funding source.

Funding could come from federal pandemic relief funds, the emergency rental relief program, or from a new state mortgage deposit program, city manager Thomas Esqueda said.

Esqueda said the mayor’s office supports the resolution.

Small Steps

Members of advocacy groups, such as the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, and Faith in the Valley spoke during public comment. They generally applauded the eviction defense but hoped councilmembers would expand the proposal.

Advocates asked for legal defense for anyone receiving an eviction notice, and a longer-term funding model.

Arias supported the resolution as is, saying things need to start small and build later.

Inspection Program Strengthened

The council also voted 6-0 to reform the 2018 Rental Housing Inspection Act.

In addition to apartments and homes, the city can now inspect long-term motels/hotels. Code enforcement officers can now inspect more units if deemed necessary. Currently, only a percentage of units based on the size of a complex can be inspected. If those units are found in unsatisfactory condition, inspectors can look at more rooms.

Landlords have a shorter time to make corrections — now 45 days down from 90. And, the council voted to make it easier to adjust fines.

City Hall Landlords

Councilman Garry Bredefeld — as well as Mayor Jerry Dyer — sat out the rental discussions based on a new interpretation of conflict-of-interest law.

City attorney Doug Sloan said public officials who own rental property with four or more units might be in conflict if voting on legislation involving tenant rights and landlord responsibilities. In an abundance of caution, he advised Bredefeld and Dyer to recuse themselves from Thursday’s discussions.

Bredefeld isn’t the only landlord among the city council, but he is the only one who owns a multi-unit building, according to financial disclosure records.

Councilmen Luis Chavez and Mike Karbassi own and rent out single-family homes.

All are properties registered with the city’s database, per law.

DON'T MISS

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

DON'T MISS

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

DON'T MISS

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

DON'T MISS

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

DON'T MISS

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

DON'T MISS

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

DON'T MISS

About 1 in 4 US Adults Over 50 Say They Expect to Never Retire, an AARP Study Finds

DON'T MISS

Biden Signs a $95 Billion War Aid Measure With Assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

DON'T MISS

Ancestry Website to Catalogue Names of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II

DON'T MISS

First-Round Picks Could Be on the Trading Block on Day 1 of the NFL Draft

UP NEXT

Ancestry Website to Catalogue Names of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II

UP NEXT

Fresno County Appoints New Librarian. What’s Her Favorite Book Genre?

UP NEXT

Costa Seeks Legislation to Prevent Reedley Lab Repeat

UP NEXT

Legacy of Speed: The 1,600 Horsepower 1957 ‘Skeva’ Chevy Bel Air Built in Fresno

UP NEXT

KMJ’s Gabriel & Musson Win Radio Honors, Fresno Council Plaudits

UP NEXT

Fresno’s Baklava House Entices Foodies With Its Delicious Flavors

UP NEXT

Google Fires More Workers Who Protested Its Deal With Israel

UP NEXT

What Do Supreme Court Justices Say About Homelessness?

UP NEXT

Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson Pledged $10M for Maui Wildfire Survivors. They Gave Much More.

UP NEXT

Did Fresno Unified’s Biggest Contractor Not Pay Its Workers? Company Still Gets Millions After Civil Penalty

David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

4 hours ago

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

4 hours ago

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

5 hours ago

About 1 in 4 US Adults Over 50 Say They Expect to Never Retire, an AARP Study Finds

5 hours ago

Biden Signs a $95 Billion War Aid Measure With Assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

6 hours ago

Ancestry Website to Catalogue Names of Japanese Americans Incarcerated During World War II

6 hours ago

First-Round Picks Could Be on the Trading Block on Day 1 of the NFL Draft

6 hours ago

Trojans Rejoice! Reggie Bush Is Reinstated as 2005 Heisman Trophy Winner

7 hours ago

Arizona Just Revived an 1864 Law Criminalizing Abortion. Here’s What’s Happening in Other States

7 hours ago

Airlines Now Required to Give Automatic Cash Refunds for Canceled, Delayed Flights

7 hours ago

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

In 2022, analysts forecast the Golden State surpassing Germany in terms of economic growth. Analysts now think the state will lose its No. 5...

11 mins ago

12 mins ago

Slumping California Risks Losing World’s ‘5th Largest Economy’ Title

2 hours ago

Ukraine Uses Long-Range Missiles Secretly Provided by US to Hit Russian-Held Areas, Officials Say

Local Education /
4 hours ago

Upward Bound: Edison High’s Garcia Headed to Johns Hopkins

4 hours ago

Boxing Star Ryan Garcia Wants to Meet Netanyahu, Pledges Aid for Gaza Children

4 hours ago

Fong Won’t Debate Boudreaux, but We Get Hot Topic Answers Anyway

5 hours ago

Legislation Pandering to Tribal Casinos Is a Bad Bet for Fresno Cardroom Employees

5 hours ago

About 1 in 4 US Adults Over 50 Say They Expect to Never Retire, an AARP Study Finds

6 hours ago

Biden Signs a $95 Billion War Aid Measure With Assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend