AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR FARM WORKERS TAKES ROOT
SAN JOSE – Today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved funding for the development of 28 new affordable housing units for local agricultural workers. The units will be incorporated into the affordable housing project known as The Magnolias to be located at 17965 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill.
The approval comes a year after County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Mike Wasserman sponsored a proposal that directed County staff to identify options for providing affordable housing for agricultural workers in southern Santa Clara County.
“Our County has helped fund and develop a significant number of affordable housing units over the past few years,” said Simitian. “Most of that development though has been in the urban core of our County. There is clearly a significant need for affordable housing in the County’s more rural areas, where farmworkers often face extraordinary challenges given the combination of low wages and a severe shortage of affordable housing.”
The Magnolias project adds to 30 units of affordable agricultural workforce housing the Board funded in August as part of the Royal Oak Village development in Morgan Hill. Together, these two projects secure 58 housing units in Santa Clara County for local agricultural workers and represent the first County-funded multifamily housing developments to include units set aside for agricultural workers since 1996.
“Our ag industry needs workers, and our workers need housing. It’s the only way we can keep this industry viable over the long haul. And it’s the only way we preserve our County’s working lands and open space,” said Simitian.
The Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan published in 2018 reported that the County’s agricultural industry supports more than 8,000 jobs and contributes around $830 million annually to the economy. But the County still has an estimated shortfall of more than 1,400 seasonal and 700 long term housing units to support the employment demands of the industry.
“We can only truly preserve our County’s critical ag resources when we ensure that the essential folks who make our agricultural success possible are not pushed out of the area because they can’t find a safe, affordable place to live,” said Mike Wasserman, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
In addition to the Magnolias and Royal Oak Village developments, the County is looking to develop a Farm Labor Housing Pilot Loan Program modeled after a similar loan program in the County of San Mateo to help further encourage and support the creation of affordable agricultural workforce housing.
“Farmworkers are essential community members who are critical to our agricultural success," said Wasserman. “I’m pleased to see the different options our County has come up with to support dedicated housing for these workers and their families in South County.”
Simitian said his initial interest in farm labor housing was first piqued by work he did years ago in the private sector to help create affordable farm labor housing on the coastside in San Mateo County – work that eventually led to the creation of 160 units of farm labor housing that today serves hundreds of agricultural workers and their family members.
Today, in his elected role as a Santa Clara County Supervisor, Simitian said he was pleased to see the County step up to address the challenge in Santa Clara County.