City leaders butted heads trying to find solution to substandard housing crisis plaguing Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's been a year since the dilapidated conditions at Summerset Village gripped the attention of a city. On Thursday, city council members fought over the newest sign of progress.

"We definitely don't believe our residents need to move because of roaches and bedbugs," said Clint Olivier, City Councilmember.

Olivier and Steve Brandau proposed the now approved anti-slum enforcement team. The focus is on hiring an ambudsman or advocate that tenants can call if they have complaints. If the landlord doesn't address the issue, the enforcement team can take action through the court system.

"Every day that we don't do something is another day that people are living in slum standards and substandard housing," said Olivier.

But many advocates said tenants are afraid of retaliation. And that fear will prevent them from calling and reporting issues in the first place.

A community advocate said, "Do something that actually aggressively protects tenants who complain that they can feel confident in and then maybe I'll be on board."

The debate not only escalated between councilmembers. Anger in the audience turned on some city leaders. People in the crowd saying they hoped Fresno would adopt a more proactive approach. By putting in a rigorous, routine inspection program.

"A call into code enforcement may very well mean red tape to their door, may mean that they not have housing because there is no affordable housing," said tenant attorney.

The anti-slum enforcement team also creates eight new full time positions-- including more code enforcement officers.
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