FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Some say Fresno has a reputation for being one of the more affordable locations to live in California – and considering that in January a home in the Bay Area described as having “boarded-up windows, peeling paint and an unstable foundation” sold for nearly $2 million, maybe there is a good reason that search engines autocomplete the question “Why is Fresno” with “so cheap.”
In a survey published last month, Move.org ranked Fresno as the fourth-best city for minimum wage earners. To come to that number, researchers examined the 75 most populous cities and used each city’s minimum wage and how much it would cost on average to rent a one-bedroom apartment in that city. Put those two numbers together and a minimum-wage worker in Fresno would have to work around 69-and-a-half hours a month to afford rent according to that survey. The only other California city that ranked higher was Bakersfield.
The same survey also ranked the top ten worst cities for minimum wage earners. The only California city included on that list was Irvine, where a minimum wage earner would have to work for 163½ hours a month to afford rent.
Fresno’s relative “cheapness” may be a reflection of the quality of life in the city. For example, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District often states that Fresno’s location in the Central Valley means that pollutants get trapped in the air. In its last annual report, the district’s executive director wrote that the area’s “geography, topography, and meteorological conditions trap air pollutants in our Valley, and uniquely challenge this region with respect to air quality.” However, work remains underway to improve that situation in the long-term.
The air quality situation also shows itself through the number of children suffering from asthma. According to Community Medical Centers, in the San Joaquin Valley (of which Fresno is the largest city by population in that area) one in six children has asthma – the highest level in the state.
When considering sales tax, California’s minimum is 7.25%. According to state data, both Fresno’s Fig Garden Village, Pinedale and Highway City have sales tax rates of 7.95%. The rest of Fresno has a sales tax rate of 8.35%. Compare to the California cities with a higher population than Fresno such as Los Angeles (sales tax of 9.5%), San Diego (7.75%), San Jose (9.375%), and San Francisco (8.625%), then Fresno would appear cheaper by comparison.
So Fresno’s apparent cheapness may be a product of many factors, including the ability to afford somewhere to live on minimum wage, the unattractiveness of living somewhere where air pollutants are trapped in the skies, and Fresno having a low sales tax rate when compared with other high-population cities in the state.