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Affordable Farmworker Housing comes to Sonoma County

thumb_2_Ortiz farmworker housing-600.jpg

Affordable Farmworker Housing comes to Sonoma County

Ortiz Family Plaza will help fill critical need for affordable home

There was a time when farmworker housing was a shack provided by an employer with no insulation, no plumbing and no electricity. People were separated from their families, coming to the U.S. to work the fields then send money home to their families. Long hours in the hot sun, no health care, no benefits and less than humane conditions were the norm.

Some aspects of the above story are still true. Housing is no longer supplied by employers.   The difference is that many people now live in an apartment or rental house, pooling their money to afford rent. It’s better, but less than most of us would tolerate, and certainly not healthy conditions for raising children.

An affordable housing development to meet the needs of Sonoma County’s changing farmworker population is coming soon to Santa Rosa. California Human Development (CHD), Integrity Housing, and Phoenix Development Company are ready to build a 30 unit complex located in Santa Rosa’s Larkfield-Wikiup region. 

“Ortiz Family Plaza will provide the men and women who harvest Sonoma County’s bounty with clean, safe and affordable homes to rest and raise their families,” says Christopher Paige, CHD’s chief executive officer. “Moreover, it will provide stability for work-authorized farmworkers who play a crucial role in the Sonoma County economy. These are much-needed affordable homes for people who live here year-round and whose children are growing up here.”

A 2015 survey by the Sonoma County Health Department shows the profile of county farmworkers is changing, with nearly 90% now living in Sonoma County permanently. It shows farmworkers spend up to 60% of their income on rent and it identifies affordable housing as a critical need. A subsidy from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows Ortiz Family Plaza to help fill this need by capping rents for farmworker residents at 30% of income.

“Ortiz Family Plaza offers a significant solution to the lack of affordable housing in Sonoma County” says Efren Carrillo, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Many of those who work the vineyards and fields of our county live in crowded, substandard conditions. It’s a problem to be solved and Ortiz Family Plaza offers an important step forward.”

In development since 2009, Ortiz Family Plaza involves a wide combination of support from federal, state and local government, as well as private foundations, businesses, and individuals.

“This is one of the more complicated financing structures we’ve encountered,” says Loren Brueggemann, president of Phoenix Development Company. “However, with all of the funders being committed to success, we were able to push through obstacles.”

Ortiz Plaza Artist Rendering ariel of planned project

The nearly $11 million complex is financed with USDA Rural Development loan funds; Sonoma County Community Development Commission (CDC) funds; federal and state tax credits purchased by City Real Estate Advisors; tax exempt bonds issued by California Housing Finance Agency; and contributions from: Marv Soiland; American Ag Credit; the Sonoma County Community Foundation’s Mayflower Fund, Paul Hobbs Winery Fund, and Anonymous Fund; the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation; and Jackson Family Wines & Enterprises. Construction financing is through Exchange Bank; USDA and California Community Reinvestment Corporation are the permanent lenders. Additionally, Sonoma County PMRD is credited with providing deferral of entitlement fees to permanent loan and expeditious permitting.

“We are pleased to help enable construction of critically needed homes for farmworker families,” says Kathleen Kane, executive director of CDC. “As noted in the County’s 2014 Housing Element, there were 2,672 children from year-round migrant families in the school system countywide during 2012-13, with the largest concentrations in three areas, one of which is the north county. Ortiz Family Plaza will provide the stable and safe living environment that is a key to their health and wellbeing, and an important factor in their ability to perform to their potential.”

To be located on a long vacant 1.78-acres parcel at 5360 Old Redwood Hwy, Ortiz Family Plaza will feature two-story buildings creating 30 two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bathroom apartments. The buildings will encircle a community center with laundry facilities, a management office, kitchen, covered patio, BBQ/picnic area, a playground, community gardens, and a teen recreational area. Onsite services such as English as a Second Language, citizenship workshops, financial literacy classes, health services outreach, mentoring programs, computer classes, education and nutrition programs will be offered.

Ortiz Family Plaza was developed by and will be owned and managed by California Human Development, Integrity Housing, and Phoenix Development Company. The complex is named in honor of CHD founder George Ortiz. Mr. Ortiz is a leading advocate for farmworkers throughout Northern California and a longtime Sonoma County resident.