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‘Safe and in peace’: Farmworker families move into new affordable homes in Woodland

See new housing units for local farm workers

Four years after Mutual Housing California established 62 energy-efficient, affordable units to house more than 200 agricultural workers and their families, the nonprofit affordable developer celebrated the addition of 39 more homes last week.
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Four years after Mutual Housing California established 62 energy-efficient, affordable units to house more than 200 agricultural workers and their families, the nonprofit affordable developer celebrated the addition of 39 more homes last week.

After seeing her husband work the nearby fields for 30 years, Patricia Trejo looks forward to a less taxing retirement life, hopeful that their application will be approved for a spot in a growing Woodland affordable housing community for farmworkers.

“We live with our son in Davis,” Trejo said, adding that she was excited about the new housing opportunity in the Spring Lake neighborhood. “We need a place to live.”

Four years after Mutual Housing California established 62 energy-efficient, affordable units to house more than 200 agricultural workers and their families, the nonprofit affordable developer celebrated the addition of 39 more homes last week during a welcome event.

The development, which has cost more than $38 million to date, is intended to house some of the more than 6,000 farmworkers and their families living in Yolo County, many of whom are immigrants and Latinos.

Particularly in rural communities such as Woodland, these agricultural workers may struggle to find both affordable rents and easily accessible basic-needs resources, said Mutual Housing California CEO Roberto Jiménez.

“Access to education is limited, access to public health is limited, access to food is actually limited,” he said. “So what we try to do is build community-based housing where families have access to all the resources that the rest of us have access to and need.”

Moving into Spring Lake was “like a new beginning” for Baudelia Brambila and her family. In her old neighborhood, she never talked to her neighbors, and the streets didn’t feel safe, she said.

“My sons didn’t have many friendships and were not very social and didn’t feel very comfortable in the space they were living,” she said during the ceremony.

“Now we have friendships with our neighbors and we know people around us that makes us feel much safe and in peace.”

The development is funded through a partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Citibank and Wells Fargo Bank, the state Department of Housing and Community Development and the city of Woodland.

Through the USDA Rural Development rental subsidies program, residents pay only up to about 30 percent of their income on rent, said property manager Mirna Broadwater.

Rent in Spring Lake averages out to $724, though some families may pay much more or much less depending on their income, said Mutual Housing California spokesman Andy Furillo.

Studies and advocates have found that farmworker families struggle to find affordable child care and after-school options, and that barriers to education prevent some from advancing within or out of the industry. A survey in 2015 also found nearly half the farmworkers in Yolo County are food insecure, nearly three times the national average.

In addition to playgrounds and community rooms, Spring Lake offers on-site programs and services such as classes on financial education, homebuyer preparation, college planning, English as a second language, and legal clinics and community service days.

For Brambila, these resources have been crucial investments towards her family’s success her sons are now in college, one at UC Davis one at Sacramento State, both studying business.

“We can rely on our neighbors like friends when there’s a need,” she said told the crowd. “More than anything, we’re all agricultural workers and now there’s more communication amongst our neighbors.”

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.

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