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Bringing Education and Affordable Housing Together for Farmworker Families in California

Image of two-story apartment buildings around a courtyard.Guadalupe Court, in Guadalupe, California, is providing affordable housing for farmworkers and their families. Photo credit: Peoples’ Self-Help Housing.

Despite the essential nature of their labor, many farmworkers earn wages that make affording decent housing a challenge. This problem is especially acute in California, where sustained underproduction has made the state’s housing some of the most expensive in the nation. Often, the lack of access to opportunity passes from one generation to the next, but in Guadalupe — a small, economically challenged city in central California with an agriculture-based economy — one developer hopes to break that cycle. Nonprofit developer Peoples’ Self-Help Housing (PSHH), which provides affordable housing with educational and other services, completed Guadalupe Court in September 2020 to make decent housing accessible to local farmworkers and their families.

Image of a kitchen.The 38 apartments at Guadalupe Court are predominantly 2- and 3-bedroom units serving families with incomes no more than 60 percent of the area median income. Rental subsidies are available in the form of USDA housing vouchers. Photo Credit: Peoples’ Self-Help Housing

Project Details

Guadalupe Court consists of 3 buildings on a 2.85-acre site. The project’s 38 apartments consist of 4 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom, and 12 three-bedroom units, reflecting the developer’s focus on providing housing for families. One-fifth of the units have an income limit of 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), half the units are reserved for very low-income families earning at or below 50 percent of AMI, 15 percent of the units are capped at 45 percent of AMI, and the remaining 10 percent are reserved for extremely low-income families earning at or below 30 percent of AMI. Rental subsidies are provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance program. Development costs totaled $18.2 million and were supported by a $3 million loan from the California Community Reinvestment Corporation, a $1.5 million USDA Section 514 loan, $213,333 from NeighborWorks America, and $13.5 million in equity raised from the sale of 9 percent low-income housing tax credits.

The project location offers easy access to neighborhood amenities, including mass transit, a market, an elementary school, and a public library. The development features a barbeque area, a play area, and a community center with a computer room. Solar panels, which have helped the project achieve net zero energy cost, along with other green features such as a laundry-to-landscape greywater system and native and drought-tolerant landscaping, earned Guadalupe Court a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Image of a playground.Developer Peoples’ Self-Help Housing built Guadalupe Court with an eye toward promoting children’s development. That includes onsite play space, and robust educational services that can lead to greater educational and employment opportunities in the future. Photo credit: Peoples’ Self-Help Housing

Building Self-Sufficiency for a New Generation

At the heart of PSHH’s model for building self-sufficiency is education, along with the recognition that structural disadvantages can take generations to overcome. According to Ken Trigueiro, chief executive officer and president of PSHH, providing onsite educational services that augment regular classroom instruction is key to getting students into higher levels of education that can be a gateway to higher incomes for their families. Guadalupe Court’s computer lab functions as a learning center; an education professional will assist the approximately 30 students at all grade levels that Trigueiro anticipates will participate in PSHH’s programming at Guadalupe Court. The staff build relationships with students through daily afterschool interaction with the students and their teachers. The students’ progress and outcomes are tracked, and PSHH is currently working with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara to more rigorously evaluate PSHH’s approach. According to both Trigueiro and Gillian Cole-Andrews, PSHH’s director of communications and resource development, PSHH already has significant experiential data testifying to the academic accomplishments of program participants.

Projects such as Guadalupe Court are particularly needed in agricultural communities. Trigueiro reports that, because the housing supply is inadequate, many farmworker families end up sharing accommodations, leading to overcrowded conditions. Although low-wage farmworkers in the area need stable and affordable housing, one requirement — the need to verify each applicant’s source of income — made the lease-up of Guadalupe Court more difficult because the nature of agricultural work can result in an unstable income. Overcoming these and other structural challenges, such as a lack of educational opportunity and support, are at the heart of PSHH’s mission, and Guadalupe Court is demonstrating one way that affordable and service-rich housing can advance sustained equity through generations.

Source:

Interview with Ken Trigueiro, chief executive officer and president, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, 20 November 2020; Interview with Gillian Cole-Andrews, director of communications and resource development, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, 17 November 2020; NeighborWorks Capital. 2018. “Helping Develop Affordable Housing In High Demand Central California,” news, 4 November. Accessed 22 December 2020; Laura Place. 2020. “Guadalupe Court: 38-unit affordable housing site opens for farmworker families,” Santa Maria Times, 1 October. Accessed 22 December 2020; Peoples’ Self-Help Housing. n.d. “About Us.” Accessed 22 December 2020.

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Source:

California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. 2018. “Project Staff Report: 2018 First Round, June 13, 2018.” Accessed 22 December 2020; NeighborWorks Capital. 2018. “Helping Develop Affordable Housing In High Demand Central California,” news, 4 November. Accessed 22 December 2020; California Community Reinvestment Corporation. n.d. “About CCRC.” Accessed 22 December 2020. ×

Source:

California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. 2018. “Project Staff Report: 2018 First Round, June 13, 2018.” Accessed 22 December 2020; Peoples’ Self-Help Housing. n.d. “Guadalupe Court.” Accessed 22 December 2020; NeighborWorks Capital. 2018. “Helping Develop Affordable Housing In High Demand Central California,” news, 4 November. Accessed 22 December 2020. ×

Source:

Interview with Gillian Cole-Andrews, 17 November 2020; Interview with Ken Trigueiro, 20 November 2020.

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Source:

Interview with Gillian Cole-Andrews, 17 November 2020; Interview with Ken Trigueiro, 20 November 2020.

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Published Date: 11 January 2021