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The nation’s hottest housing market? Surprise -- it’s Fresno

Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Ricchiuti used Italianate white stone for the complex’s clubhouse, centered the development on a large pool with private cabanas and planted elm and olive trees to line the streets. On a clear day from the property, you can see the tops of the Sierra Nevada, an hour away.

“Finding people who can afford it, that’s not been the problem,” Ricchiuti said.

Five years ago, Linda Moreno moved to Fresno from a suburb of Washington, D.C., with her husband, a government auditor, and their two children to be close to her husband’s ailing mother. While looking for places to live, she was stunned at what she could afford.

“We were the poor of Bethesda, and now we’re the rich of Fresno,” said Moreno, 54.

The family started out by renting single-family homes but last October signed an 18-month lease for a three-bedroom townhome at the Row, for just over $2,300 a month. Moreno is happy she locked down the home. Because of the high demand, the same units are being advertised now for as much as $3,400 a month.

The family could buy something in Fresno but is wary of putting down roots in a place known for droughts.

 

For others, renting is the only option. While prices in the region remain far below those in other areas of the state — median one-bedroom rentals in San Francisco average $1,000 more a month than in Fresno — the housing affordability challenges here are worse by some metrics.

A greater percentage of families in Fresno spend more than half their income on rent than those in San Francisco or Los Angeles. The housing shortage for low-income households in Fresno tops 35,000 units, according to advocacy group California Housing Partnership Corp.

Now the twin pains of the pandemic and rising rents have put more of a squeeze on Fresno’s most vulnerable.

Blanca, a 34-year-old who lives with her husband and three children, has seen her rent increase every six months, including during the pandemic. For her three-bedroom home in southeast Fresno, Blanca — who declined to give her full name out of fear of retaliation — pays $945 a month, 40% more than when she moved in a decade ago.

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