New Fresno Programs for Down Payment Assistance and Section 8

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Home prices in the Fresno, Calif., market have retreated slightly since peaking in the summer of 2022. The median price of a home in Fresno County in August 2022 was $405,000, down from $425,000 in June.

FRESNO BEE PHOTO FILE

City of Fresno officials are rolling out New Housing Down Payment and Section 8 Voucher Assistance programs that they hope will make it easier for residents to find housing in Fresno.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer and his team are working with Bank of America to provide up to $17,500 in down payment assistance to first-time home buyers. Additionally, the Fresno City Council is working on another down payment assistance program to help middle-class tenants in Fresno become homeowners. The new programs also offer new education programs for homeowners.

While increasing the city’s affordable housing stock is important, Fresno City Council member Esmeralda Soria said helping people become homeowners is also an important part of solving the city’s housing crisis. town.

“We have 65% of the people in our town renting, right? We have to figure out how to reverse the situation,” Soria said. “We should have 65% of people owning because it creates better neighborhoods. In terms of stability, this ensures that people don’t have to worry about their house payment increasing. »

City officials last month approved these and other programs designed to create more affordable housing options across the city in another step to solving the city’s housing crisis. Other programs include the creation of land trusts, small housing villages, and potential changes to the city’s permitting and development process.

Karla Martinez, policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, said it’s good to see movement on some of Fresno’s housing issues.

However, she said, urgent needs remain. Martinez said Fresno should follow the lead of California cities that have passed rent control legislation.

“There needs to be stronger protections for local tenants now,” Martinez said. “Wages continue to stagnate but rents continue to rise. That’s why people really want this to happen as soon as possible so families and children don’t continue to be displaced.

Down payment assistance

The Mayor’s Down Payment Assistance Program is already operational. This year, 28 families received the aid, he said.

Under the Mayor’s partnership with Bank of America, there are no income restrictions to qualify for assistance. However, the aid is linked to around 400 registered households in the city. Those interested in buying the homes can apply through Bank of America. For more information, visit the city ​​webpage on the program.

The Fresno City Council has also approved another installment assistance program, but it’s not quite ready for applicants.

Through the No Place Like Home program, individuals with a household income of no more than $120,000 and a five-year residential history in the city of Fresno may qualify for a $15,000 0% interest loan that will turn into a canceled grant as long as the applicant lives. home for five years.

Once ready, the city council hopes the program will help up to 300 families. The details of this program are still being finalized in the hope of

“People were very happy to see that there is now a down payment assistance program that is trying to be implemented by the city,” Martinez said of local residents. “It’s something that people have been asking for for over a year now, to be able to have this down payment assistance, regardless of your immigration status.”

Homeownership Classes in Southwest Fresno

The city council, through its No Place Like Home initiative, is awarding $1 million to the Southwest Fresno Development Corporation, which hopes to turn the abandoned Bank of America building in southwest Fresno into a community development center .

Allysunn Walker, who leads the organization, has already contacted Bank of America and is in talks with leaders there.

The Southwest Fresno Development Corporation provides multilingual homeownership financial knowledge to Southwest Fresno residents. The new money is intended to continue this work for people interested in buying existing homes in southwest Fresno as well as building new ones.

Council members also hope it will prevent gentrification.

Walker noted that 1,000 new homes have been licensed in southwest Fresno and will be built over the next 10 years.

“Our goal is really to create ready-to-borrow borrowers who love this community, live there, work there, grew up there, and want to come back and buy there,” Walker said. “We believe in majority owner occupancy, which can change a community. We don’t want another downtown area of ​​absentee landlords.

Walker has worked with the Fresno Housing Authority before and knows all about the barriers to homeownership. The organization is already in partnership with banks and real estate agencies.

While the million dollars may seem like a lot of money, Southwest Fresno is overdue for investment, Walker said.

“We’ve learned a lot over the past few years about how to make lasting change and center equity,” she said. “This opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for residents of Southwest Fresno. I really hope people can put their arms around this, and let’s make some change in a really tangible way.

Section 8 voucher incentives

As part of one of the mayor’s new plans, the city will work with the Fresno Housing Authority to help Section 8 bond holders overcome any barriers that prevent them from securing housing.

The city uses about $250,000 to subsidize rental application costs and credit check fees, which add up quickly and are often non-refundable.

Another $350,000 will go towards a signing incentive to encourage “mom and pop” landlords to accept Section 8 bond holders as tenants. The city has also allocated funds for a repair fund for landlords who accept Section 8 bonds and for any vacancy losses they incur. Landlords who are considered “slum lords” or who own properties with a high number of code violations will not be considered.

Voucher holders who are families, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and people in emergency shelters will be given priority.

Dyer said he hopes the incentives and assistance will help house up to 450 Section 8 voucher holders.

Martinez, the policy advocate, said owners don’t need more incentives. They should instead follow the law, she said, which prohibits them from discriminating against Section 8 bond holders.

“We continue to urge landlords to break the law,” Martinez said. “Instead of pushing people to take these vouchers, there should be a hotline of complaints to enforce the law so people know their rights. All landlords know they have to accept vouchers, and s ‘they don’t accept vouchers, that should have repercussions.

Land trusts

The city has also allocated funds to two trusts, an affordable one called the Central California Land Trust and a mixed-income one called the Central Fresno Neighborhood Trust. The Central Fresno Neighborhood Trust is also designed to be affordable.

A community land trust owns the land but can rent or even sell the units on the land. A mixed-income neighborhood trust works similarly, but is geared towards run-down properties or undesirable areas. Both types of trusts aim to keep housing costs affordable.

The city council approved $225,000 to help the Central California Land Trust build its organization. From there, up to 25 applicants who cannot afford a home at market price will be able to rent or buy a home from the trust.

The Central Fresno Neighborhood Trust is a new concept in Fresno and focuses on all of central Fresno. The Lowell Community Development Corporation will use the million dollars to purchase and renovate 50 units.

While the Lowell CDC has done a lot of work on homeownership education over the past 10 years, the staff has shifted gears in recent years because Fresno’s housing landscape has changed so rapidly. Now there is also a great need for affordable housing.

“We totally see this as a necessary tool in the tool belt to help solve our affordable housing crisis,” said Lowell CDC executive director Esther Carver.

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Brianna Vaccari covers Fresno City Hall for The Bee, where she strives to hold officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister newspaper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.


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Elaine R. Knight