Congressman Panetta Introduces Farmworker Housing Improvement Legislation

October 16, 2018
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Today, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) introduced the Farmworker Housing Improvement Act enhancing affordable housing resources and promoting program transparency.

"On the central coast of California, there is an acute need for available and affordable farmworker housing," said Congressman Panetta.  "My legislation will address such a shortage by strengthening the Farm Labor Housing Loan and Grant Program, improving access to information for local non-profits, and increasing quality housing options for our farmworker community."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Housing and Community Facilities Program administers funding for Farm Labor Housing and is the only federal program exclusively designed to increase access to affordable rental housing for America’s farmworkers.  The program’s Section 514 loans and Section 516 grants may be used to buy, build, improve, or repair housing for year-round and migrant or seasonal domestic farmworkers.  The Farmworker Housing Improvement Act improves the application process, including by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an annual timetable for awarding program funds, requiring a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) period for the Section 514/516 grant to last for 60 days, increasing the funding award caps, and expanding eligibility for certain legal permanent residents.

"Monterey County has an expanding agricultural economy that depends on a permanent year-round workforce.  The 2018 Farmworker Housing Study & Action Plan for Salinas and Pajaro Valleys showed that farmworkers are living in severe overcrowded conditions.  CHISPA supports Congressmember Panetta’s effort to improve and strengthen the USDA Section 514/516 farmworker housing program." said Alfred Diaz-Infante, President and CEO of Community Housing Improvement Systems and Planning Association, Inc. (CHISPA)

"With the many challenges of building new, affordable housing, Monterey County Farm Bureau welcomes Congressman Panetta's efforts to improve the Section 514/516 farmworker housing program.  Local Ag employers are seeking out new ways to build housing, utilizing all pathways to provide a solution to our critical affordable housing shortage here.  Passage of this bill will provide another opportunity for these Ag employers," states Norm Groot, Executive Director of Monterey County Farm Bureau.

"USDA Rural Development’s farmworker housing loans and grants are valuable resources.  However, they haven’t kept pace with the changing environment of affordable housing development.  Congressman Panetta’s bill is a big step in the right direction," said Marty Miller, Executive Director of the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing.

"We appreciate Congressman Panetta’s work to make housing for farmworkers more available and the federal financing tools more available.  Sometimes federal programs need to be re-examined to make sure they are most focused on the needs ahead.  This bill, if enacted, will provide housing providers with more tools to create and preserve housing for farmworkers in rural America." said Colleen M. Fisher, Executive Director, Council for Affordable and Rural Housing.

"This bill makes needed improvements to the Farm Labor Housing program –  including enabling housing developers to maximize private investment – and will create transparency in the award process which will result in better farmworker projects across the country," said Tom Collishaw, President and CEO of Self-Help Enterprises.