Business & Real Estate

New study cites Bakersfield’s affordability as a main draw for millennial homebuyers

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In a list dominated by Bay Area cities, Folsom and Elk Grove made the top 15 in SmartAsset’s recent ranking of the best places to raise a family on the West Coast.

Try to name the California city that recently settled into the Top 10 list of what the National Association of Realtors is calling the “Most Popular Areas for Millennials: Where They Move And Stay.”

San Luis Obispo? Nice try. Eureka? Not even close. Palm Springs? Wrong again.

It’s Bakersfield!

Who’d a thunk it?

According to the NAR survey released the other day, Bakersfield joined nine other metro areas that are, in some cases surprisingly, attracting young job-seekers like never before.

“A wide range of factors contribute to why millennials decide to move to certain areas, remain for an extended period or choose to relocate shortly after their arrival,” according to the study’s authors. “Job market and affordability in the given location are two of the main reasons that impact millennials the most.”

Those words should resonate with millennials now living in the Bay Area, drawn here by the lure of employment but now growing weary of nose-bleed real-estate prices, prohibitively expensive rents, thickening urban congestion and soul-crushing commutes. Many young workers have already departed for more affordable climes, and a lot of them apparently are heading to Bakersfield.

“The NAR analyzed employment gains, population trends, income levels and housing conditions in the largest 100 metropolitan statistical areas across the country to identify the best purchase markets for millennial homebuyers,” the authors wrote. “The top 10 metro areas NAR identified were chosen for their above-average share of current millennial residents and recent movers, favorable employment opportunities and relatively low qualifying incomes needed to purchase a home.”

The report looked at employment gains, population trends, income levels and housing conditions in the largest 100 metropolitan statistical areas across the country to sort out the most popular destinations for millennials. NAR found that Madison, Wisc., is one of the top destinations for millennials, saying 75% “of recent movers to the city have been millennials. Additionally, this segment of the population has mostly elected to remain in the area.”

The survey also concluded that one corner of the Golden State is a popular home-buying destination for the 20-something set. That’s where Bakersfield comes in. Although many California residents who’ve passed through this dusty outpost in the Central Valley might find it hard to believe, this home to bad air, Basque food and country singer Merle Haggard is a place where 67% of recent newcomers are millennials. Why? Simple, says the NAR: Bakersfield is one of the most affordable metro areas in the state.

And all those easily attainable homes, condos and apartments are like catnip to young professionals. “Of the millennials who most recently moved there, they can afford to purchase nearly 15 percent of the homes listed for sale,” says the study. ” This is in comparison to neighboring Los Angeles, where millennials can only afford to buy 4 percent of listed homes.

“The increasing employment rate in California is another strong selling point among this generation,” says NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “While the rate of unemployment in Bakersfield is higher than it is nationwide, we’re seeing job growth there pick up at a strong pace. Home building in Bakersfield is rising, too. Many newcomers to San Francisco and Los Angeles do not stay for long because of unaffordability. Millennials moving to Bakersfield meanwhile are looking to take advantage of conditions toward homeownership.”

All of this, of course, is fine. But before you pack up the van and head for the valley, here are some things you might want to know about Bakersfield:

Music galore

Home to country-western singers Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, Bakersfield has assembled a proud collection of live-music venues past and present, including local bars such as On The Rocks, Sandrini’s, Riley’s and The Padre. Other spots have included B Ryders Sports Bar and Grill in southwest Bakersfield, Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield Convention Center, Fox Theater and Buck Owens Crystal Palace, still a Bakersfield cultural landmark.

A Nazi flag in the classroom

Bakersfield high school history teacher David Gaeta drew widespread anger in February after he displayed a Nazi flag in the classroom as a prop for teaching about the Holocaust. The swastika symbol’s display did not play out well among many students, even as Gaeta’s son, Gabriel, defended his dad by saying that for the past decade he had displayed the flag is his classroom when students were studying the Holocaust.

What’s up, Doc?

Bakersfield put baby carrots on the map — and vice versa: The local and legendary Grimmway Farms is the largest grower, producer and shipper of carrots in the world. The company, which has been family-owned and -operated for four decades, was created after brothers Rodney and Robert Grimm started farming a few acres on their family’s chicken farm in Anaheim. They segued to baby carrots when that concept was test-marketed by another producer in L.A. The rest is carrot history: One report about the bite-sized crunchy snacks says Grimmway Farms now handles 10 million pounds of carrots a day, while another says it grows more than 40,000 acres of carrots.

Don’t breathe the air

Nestled in a bowl formed by the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and the California Coast Ranges to the west, Bakersfield has long carried the mantel when it comes to bad air. Thanks to a toxic mix of emissions from agriculture, rail freight, heavy highway truck traffic and other industries in the region, the fast-growing city remains a bastion of air pollution. As The Guardian put it in a 2017 article, the toxins “create one of the country’s worst concentrations of air pollution – a condition exacerbated by geographic and climatic conditions that trap dry, dirty air over this southern section of Central Valley like the lid over a pot.” The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report found Bakersfield’s air to be the nastiest in the U.S. “for short-term and year-round particle pollution, and the second worst for ozone pollution.”

A Basque banquet

Good Basque food is plentiful in and around Bakersfield, which boasts what some say is probably the largest cluster of Basque restaurants in California; at one time or another, they’ve included the legendary Maitia’s, known for its garlic fried chicken before going belly-up in 2008, as well as Noriega’s, Benji’s, Narducci’s, The Pyrenees, Chalet and Woolgrowers, many of which are in East Bakersfield.

From Paris to Bakersfield

Here’s how one reviewer on IMDb describes the FX series “Baskets,” which was co-created by Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis and Jonathan Krisel and stars Galifianakis:

“Chip Baskets has a dream: become a classically trained French clown in Paris. Things don’t go as well as he’d like, though, largely because of an impenetrable language barrier. With his lack of success overseas and mounting financial problems, Chip moves back home to Bakersfield, which presents other challenges for the wannabe jester. Going back home means having to confront his past, and compete with his siblings for his mother’s approval. Even though he didn’t make it as a clown in France, Chip is sort of living his dream — as a rodeo clown.”

That about sums it up.

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