Fresno, Tulare counties see significant rent hikes

White apartment complex for rent located in Central Visalia.(Rigo Moran)

Two recent reports show that low-income households are hard-pressed to afford the average asking rent in either county

CENTRAL VALLEY – Rising rent costs in Fresno and Tulare counties could leave many local residents scrambling for housing.

In May, the California Housing Partnership (CHP) published “Affordable Housing Reports” for Fresno and Tulare counties. From what the reports indicate, low-income households in Fresno and Tulare counties are being squeezed out of the rental market due to increased rents and the lack of affordable housing.

According to the key findings section of the reports, Fresno County renters must earn at least $25.23 per hour – 1.6 times the state minimum wage – to afford the average monthly rent of $1,312 in the county. Renters in Tulare county must earn at least $21.33 per hour to afford the average monthly rent of $1,109.

Over 36,000 low-income renter households in Fresno County have zero access to affordable housing. Individuals in extremely low-income households pay more than half of their income on housing costs. Conversely, moderate-income households pay 2% of their income on housing costs.

In Tulare County, over 13,300 low-income renter households do not have access to affordable housing. Over 70% of extremely low-income households pay more than half their income on housing costs compared with moderate-income households who pay 1% of their income.

Since 2010, asking rents – the rates landlords ask for – in Fresno County have increased steadily. The average rent in 2010 was about $800. Asking rents increased 5% between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022. The average asking rent in Tulare County was roughly $750. Unlike Fresno, Tulare saw the average rent decrease by .1% between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022.

The COVID pandemic played a significant role in why rents across the state have increased. According to Zillow’s “Observed Rent Index,” between March 31, 2020 – the start of the pandemic – and June 30, 2023, both Fresno and Visalia saw rents increase by nearly 40%. Rents in Merced increased by over 30%; in Modesto, the increase was just below 30%.

IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY…

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.7% percent of individuals in Fresno County live in poverty; in Tulare County, 19.4% live in poverty. By comparison, in San Francisco County, one of the state’s wealthiest counties, 11.4% of its residents live in poverty. From 2017 to 2021, the average per capita income in San Francisco County was $77,267. In Fresno County, the 2021 per capita income was $27,295; in Tulare, it was $23,706.

Zillow’s California Rental Market site notes the median rent for all bedrooms and property sites in the state is $2,913. Using a standard mortgage calculation, which cautions a person should never spend more than a third of monthly income on rent, an individual would have to make $105,455 per year to afford $2,900 per month or $34,800 per year in rent.

…AND THE LACK OF HOUSING

Despite the fact that Governor Newsom has invested $30 billion in housing-related programs, California simply does not have enough affordable housing to keep pace with demand. According to CHP, the state needs to build at least 120,000 affordable housing units each to provide housing for lower-income households.

In a May 19 press release, Newsom said $567 million was available statewide to build multifamily affordable housing. Together with the $825 million announced by the governor’s office last February, the state plans to build 9,550 in 58 communities. According to the California Housing and Community Development website, 20% of the $1.5 billion in program funds will be allocated to projects in rural areas.

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