A home with a real estate sign in front of it in Tower District in central Fresno on June 28, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

(CALMATTERS) – For Californians already living on the margins, recent numbers show that affordable housing and health care are both likely becoming even more difficult to come by.

As CalMatters’ housing reporter Ben Christopher explains, inland cities such as Bakersfield, and Fresno — often less expensive places to live than coastal cities — are experiencing dramatic rent hikes that are squeezing out lower-income residents and disrupting local housing markets.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, rents for these cities have increased by as much as 40% as remote work exploded and white-collar workers sought cheaper housing.

The result? The housing affordability crisis that continues to plague the coast is now stretching outward — and residents in the Central Valley are losing their lower cost of living.

  • Jeff Tucker, economist at the real-estate listings company Zillow: “People have been moving towards that more affordable option when they don’t have anywhere else in California that they can afford.”

In response to thishousing crunch, Bakersfield and Fresno have permitted about 15% more housing units in 2021 and 2022 than they did in the two years before the pandemic. But recent efforts to expand tenant rights and rent control, Ben reports, have been largely unsuccessful.

It’s not just low-cost housing: Fewer Californians have affordable health care coverage, writes CalMatters’ health reporter Ana B. Ibarra.

Every year, Medi-Cal reviews enrollees’ eligibility. But when COVID-19 hit, the state paused the process. With the peak of the pandemic considered over, the state restarted its renewal process in the spring and began kicking off people who either did not turn in their renewal packet in time, or whose income could not be verified.

Since then, of the 1 million-plus Californians who were expected to renew coverage in June, about 225,0000 of them, or 21%, have lost their Medi-Cal coverage as of July 1. 

There are various reasons for this: Former enrollees may not have received their renewal packets yet, received a packet in a language not native to their own or their paperwork may have experienced a processing delay at a county office. 

Because enrollees who have been dropped have 90 days to reinstate coverage, state officials anticipate the non-renewal rate to be closer to 17%. Still, more residents are expected to lose coverage as California continues to review the eligibility for almost 16 million people over the next 12 months.

  • David Kane, Western Center on Law and Poverty senior attorney: “I don’t think today’s preliminary numbers mean we can all sit back and think things are OK. These disenrollments are not inevitable. The state, counties, advocates, and community groups together have the power to help more people keep their Medi-Cal.”