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First-of-its-Kind Housing for Youth Exiting Foster Care Unveiled for North Fresno
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By Edward Smith
Published 6 months ago on
October 18, 2023

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Developers of a north Fresno housing project plan to bring 96 permanent residences for young adults leaving foster care.

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi says the project can be built at half the cost of traditional affordable housing units and in a considerably shorter amount of time.

On Thursday, Fresno City Council will vote whether to accept $22 million of Project Home Key money from the state to fund the construction of the Welcome Home Project at 6507 N. Polk Ave.

Nonprofit Valley Teen Ranch is the developer of the project.

“It’s very different from any type of what you call affordable housing because you’re talking about people from 18 and up who don’t have the support that maybe you and I had with one or two parents in our lives,” Karbassi said. “They’re foster youth and some of them have been failed by the system. And what Valley Teen Ranch does is, they provide them that bridge to a better future.”

Mayor Jerry Dyer said the project will provide young people stability and services.

“This project will prevent future homelessness, which is one of the most important things we can ever do,” Dyer said. “I’m proud of all we have accomplished so far in our effort to end chronic homelessness, but recognize we still have more to do.”

Welcome Home Project Location

Housing Project ‘Prevents Homelessness,’ Says Karbassi

Valley Teen Ranch will choose the young adults who will live at the Welcome Home Project. Being run by the nonprofit, residents will learn essential life skills such as how to dress for an interview and the importance of college and trade school, Karbassi said. Residents who need it will have access to substance abuse treatment.

Representatives with Valley Teen Ranch were not immediately available for comment.

Residents will pay rent but Fresno County will help subsidize some of those costs. Because of where residents are in their lives, only about 25% will have cars, Karbassi estimated. However, the city has expanded access to Fresno Area Express in recent years. Once Veterans Boulevard is completed — the overpass spanning Highway 99 — Karbassi said even more bus routes could come.

Having stable housing keeps youth from falling into homelessness, Karbassi said. And, once residents establish themselves with a job or an education, the hope is they move on and open up units for others.

“The hope is they will get stable, have an address, have a support structure, be able to deal with any of the issues they have, get an education, not worry about housing, and this is how you prevent homelessness. They’re not homeless, but this is how you prevent them from becoming homeless,” Karbassi said.

Renderings for the 96-unit Welcome Home Project show what the affordable housing project will look like. (City of Fresno)

Modular Housing Reduces Cost, Build Times

Builders will use modular housing for the 95 tenant units and one staff unit. Workers assemble walls, ceilings, and floors at a manufacturing facility and builders put them into place at the site. At a cost of $229,166 a unit, the price comes in significantly less than other local affordable housing projects.

The $22 million is meant to cover all necessary infrastructure, including sidewalks, gates, and a basketball court.

In comparison, The Monarch in Fresno’s Chinatown cost $24 million for 57 units, or $421,053 a unit. The Link @ Blackstone cost $39 million for 88 units, or $443,181 each.

“This for me is one of the biggest selling points for this project,” Karbassi said.

Rules behind Home Key funding dictate the project has to be completed within 12 months.

“Because it’s modular housing, they can accomplish that goal,” Karbassi said.

What Do Neighbors Think of the Project?

Tuesday night, developers and Karbassi held a community meeting with homeowners in the area. For neighbors of the project, building on an empty lot means cutting down on dumping there, Karbassi said. It also means discouraging trucks from parking on the side of the road.

Karbassi said some neighbors had concerns initially about bringing foster youth to the area surrounded by single-family homes. However, the program maintains strict rules for its residents.

“These are kids that want the help,” Karbassi said. “Not all of them, but many of them haven’t had that support structure. For them, they’re eager for opportunity and that’s why Valley Teen Ranch is so selective in how they screen who comes in because they want a good synergy amongst the residents.”

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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