Community development in action: Planting seeds of growth

Learn how California farmworkers’ experienced improved labor conditions and advanced operations.

Tags: Community
Published: June 26, 2019

Farmworkers are essential to our country’s agricultural industry. They plant, cultivate and harvest many of our nation’s most essential crops. Despite their impact on the economy, workers often find themselves isolated in labor camps with deplorable living conditions.


This was the case at Camphora in Soledad, California, where farmworkers were living in sub-standard cinderblock buildings, originally meant as temporary housing for migrant workers, built in the 1960s.


Prior to redevelopment, the dirt road to the workers’ housing was cratered and cut off from the rest of the area by a highway and a state prison. The crumbling community center was boarded up and shut down. There was no grass or play area for the children living there.


“This community of farmworkers was living in the shadows of the prison walls,” says Sebastian Glowacki, vice president of affordable housing for the U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC). “This valley is one of the most profitable agricultural areas in the country, yet the people making this happen were invisible.”


Eden Housing, a California-based affordable housing developer, partnered with the City of Soledad and Monterey County to redevelop the land with an investment from USBCDC.


The investment helped to redevelop the site, replacing old housing with a 44-unit garden-style affordable housing complex. Today, the community has soccer fields, a basketball court, patio areas and a community center. Residents have access to a computer lab, financial literacy education, employment training and referrals, a resident scholarship fund, and educational and cultural programs.


“Camphora is now far and away the nicest development in the area,” says Glowacki. “The farmworkers that live there are no longer invisible.”


It takes a village to rebuild one

The Fred Young Farm Labor Camp in Indio, California, is a community of permanent farmworkers and their families. For many years, residents lived in deteriorating apartments, averaging 700 square feet per family.


In 2008, the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC) began to revitalize the community. With an investment from USBCDC, CVHC completed the first phase of the redevelopment in 2014, which replaced 85 units with modern homes for retired workers and their families.


After the renovation, residents renamed their community to Villa Hermosa, “a beautiful village.”


“This project is a model of how developers can create a positive impact in a community,” says Kacey Cordes Mahrt, vice president of affordable housing at USBCDC. “This is more than buildings, it’s a place where people are cared for and are provided the resources they need to move up the ladder.”


Click here to learn more about the mission of USBCDC and read other stories about community development financing.


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