More than $300 million worth of produce is grown every year in Santa Clara County. But one South Bay leader says there aren’t enough affordable homes to house the people who maintain and harvest those crops.
The Ochoa Migrant Center in rural Gilroy is one of the places currently housing migrant farm workers, but it’s not nearly enough.
Maribel Estrada is staying there to work. She said workers will come to work in the Santa Clara Valley fields, but if they can’t find affordable housing, they’ll go elsewhere.
“As a daughter of a former farmworker, a bracero, this is absolutely close to my heart,” said Supervisor Sylvia Arenas.
Now, Arenas is proposing two measures to help solve the issue.
One is to build more homes for farmworks on county land. She says only 61 housing units are in the works, but a recent county report calls for 700 more year-round units, along with 1,400 units for seasonal workers.
“To have only 60 units in the pipeline is accepting that people should live in unlivable conditions,” said Arenas.
The supervisor also wants to make it easier for farmers to build workers homes on their own land.
“There are several landowners, farmers, in Santa Clara County who want to move forward with creating more housing for their employees on their properties. We need to make sure the process is clear, is fair, and not as complicated,” said Matt Huerta of the California Coalition for Rural Housing.
The organization advocates for farmworkers across the state.
“So, if we can’t count on people to do the hard work, then we’re not going to be able to go to the grocery store and expect that we’re gonna have fresh produce,” said Huerta.
The county supervisors voted to move forward with the plan.
Now the county staff will talk with workers and farmers over the next three months to see what can be done, where the homes could be built, and how much it’ll all cost.
But Arenas said doing nothing is no longer an option.
Source: NBC Bay Area