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Behind the Scenes


Farm Housing
Produced by Pat McConahay

They labor in the fields to bring us the food that we eat, harvesting everything from tomatoes in Bakersfield to cherries in San Joaquin County. At the end of their very long day, many farmworkers come home to housing that most people would consider unliveable.

California's farm workers are the backbone of the state's agricultural industry. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California -- an independent research organization -- found that the Central Valley is the fastest growing region in the state thanks to the surge in the Latino population, many of whom are farm-workers. But housing has declined for migrant workers by as much as a third in 20 years.

At $6.26 an hour, combined with the seasonal nature of the work, farm workers have the lowest income surveyed by the U.S. Census. Another major reason for the housing shortage is that more farmers have stopped providing licensed labor camps where, historically, many workers lived. A survey by a coalition of California agricultural associations and farm worker advocates found only a third of the farmers who responded provide housing.

One of the difficulties in developing housing is the variety of migrant workers. Some are families who follow the work and need temporary shelter. Other families need permanent housing. The largest need is for single men living away from their families. It's also the hardest to provide because some fear an increase in crime in those types of housing developments.

The 300-unit Harney Lane complex is one of three state-owned, county labor centers. More than 100 families are waiting for one of the small apartments that rent for up to $238 a month. It even offers a day care program. Originally opened for a 6-month season, increased funding now allows families to stay for 9 months, enabling their children to stay in school.

Another progressive housing endeavor is the Via De Guadalupe, a 60-unit apartment complex offering farmworker families who qualify a place they can rent permanently. It was created with the help of the Catholic Charities of Fresno and the California Endowment. Self-Help Enterprises, a non-profit organization that builds low-income housing, constructed the complex that provides far more than shelter. There's also an innovative afterschool educational program and soon there will be a health care facility. But many more of these privately developed complexes, as well as government-subsidized housing, are needed to meet future demands...




Rob Weiner
CA Coalition for Rural Housing

Antonio Pizano
E.D., San Joaquin County Housing Authority


The complete text of New Valley Episode 102 -- Through the Roof...


Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center


New Valley Official Site