Central Washington state has a robust agriculture industry, accounting for 20 percent to 25 percent of the region’s total economy.
Farmworkers are a critical part of that economy, handpicking crops, such as asparagus, cherries, and apples. But affordable housing can be scarce in rural areas, and these needed laborers are forced to live in overcrowded or unsafe conditions.
But Yakima, Wash.–based Catholic Charities Housing Services (CCHS) is helping to provide more safe, affordable housing opportunities for farmworkers one project at a time in the seven-county area where it works.
“The need for farmworker housing is acute throughout central Washington,” says CCHS director Bryan Ketcham.
One of its latest projects, which completed leasing at the beginning of 2014, is Casa Kino in Quincy. It features 50 two- and three-bedroom townhomes for farmworkers and other low-income households who earn 30 percent, 40 percent, and 50 percent of the area median income.
The development team, which also included consultant Beacon Development Group, M.C. Lundgren Construction, and ZBA Architecture, focused on creating safe housing with abundant areas for families and their children to gather and play.
It includes a community building with media centers and classrooms, walking paths, and recreational equipment for toddlers through adults, including basketball and volleyball courts.
Casa Kino, which was named after Eusebius Kino, the 16th century Catholic priest who founded most of the missions in northern Mexico and southern Arizona as well as the first cattle rancher in the new world, also was constructed to be energy- and water-efficient.
It features structured insulated panels, triple-glazed windows, LED unit lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and xeriscaping to reduce irrigation water demand.
“CCHS brings a lot to the communities on top of just housing,” says Cindy Proctor, development director at Beacon Development Group.
CCHS has a part-time services coordinator and also connects residents to community resources. This is all part of its resident services program, which focuses on five key areas: crime prevention, education, health, community engagement, and economic opportunity. Within that program, a range of weekly activities is planned, such as health screenings, a learning hour for K-12 students where older children can tutor the younger ones, and other after-school activities.
The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) was crucial to the development, says Proctor, adding that it also helped to leverage substantial infrastructure improvements in the community, such as sidewalks, street lights, 900 feet of new public road, and extended water and sewer.
“If there was no tax credit, there would be no affordable housing being built in rural communities,” she says.
The $10.5 million project was financed with LIHTC equity from National Equity Fund. Other critical funding came from the Washington State Department of Commerce Housing Trust Fund and Community Development Block Grant Housing Enhancement Fund through the city of Quincy.
CCHS is in the process of closing on two 51-unit farmworker deals in Granger and Prosser. Ketcham says it hopes to start construction on the Granger project this fall and the Prosser project in early spring.