|Mar 02, 2012 --
Outline of Need
In northwest Oregon’s Washington County, thousands of farmworkers take on jobs essential to the local community and economy through their work at a number of labor-intensive food processing businesses, nurseries, vineyards, and other agricultural operations producing everything from berries to nuts to vegetables. Despite their vital role, however, estimates show that more than 720 farmworker families in the county live in camps, sheds, garages and other substandard housing that often lacks heat, running water or adequate plumbing.
To change this harsh reality, local nonprofit Bienestar has championed the development of high quality, affordable housing for farmworkers in the region for more than 30 years. In February of 2012, Bienestar broke ground on their most recent venture, the 24-unit Juniper Gardens farmworker apartment complex in Forest Grove, Oregon.
Bienestar’s executive director, Karen Shawcross, explains that these families “represent another segment of the population that has been hurt by the recession and need some new options. We're hoping to help meet their needs, as well.”
How Rural Development Helped
USDA Rural Development’s Farm Labor Housing Loans and Grants support development of affordable rental housing for farm laborers, retired farm workers, and their households. Through this funding mechanism, USDA provided $2.43 million in grants and $570,000 in loans for the $5-million phase one of the Juniper Gardens development.
In addition to USDA financing, a number of other investments helped the project come together, including a $750,000 loan from the county to purchase land and incentives from the State of Oregon.
Upon completion of phase one in December of 2012, 24 families will move into Juniper Gardens’ modern, new two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments. In addition to providing safe, good quality living conditions, the facility will offer a number of resident services to empower farmworkers and their families. These offerings will include English as a second language tutoring, computer and financial literacy classes, community gardens, a job club, free income tax preparation, and nutrition classes. For children, homework and science clubs, summer reading programs, soccer and basketball teams, a nature camp, and more.
Program: Farm Labor Housing Loans and Grants (Section 514 and 516), Rental Assistance
USDA Investment: $2.43 million in grants, $570,000 in loans
Partners: Bienestar, Inc., USDA Rural Development, CASA of Oregon, Housing and Urban Development’s HOME program, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Community Housing Fund, Washington County Office of Community Development, City of Forest Grove, Energy Trust of Oregon, Scott Edwards Architecture, LMC Construction, West Coast Construction Consultants, Community Development Law Center
• The first phase of the project will provide safe, affordable housing for 24 farmworker families. The second phase, which will be constructed with a second financing package, will provide another 22 units.
• With USDA Rural Development Rental Assistance, residents will pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly incomes in rent.
• A variety of resident services will expand opportunities for farmworker families.
• More than 116 people in a dozen trades will gain employment through development of this apartment complex.