Keelan Naasz, Catholic Charities Housing Services

Catholic Charities Housing Services (CCHS) not only has developed the largest multifamily project and first affordable housing project in three decades in Tieton, Washington, it also is serving a critical population in the rural community—farmworkers.

Tieton is one of the oldest farming communities established in Yakima County and has transitioned to a largely immigrant farmworker community with about 70% of residents being Latinx. St. Catherine De Vigri Villas includes 53 two-, three-, and four-bedroom units for farmworker households earning between 30% and 50% of the area median income.

“Yakima County is a labor-intensive agriculture region,” says Bryan Ketcham, vice president and director of CCHS. “The city of Tieton is 13 miles northwest of Yakima with predominantly apple and cherry orchard areas. There’s a longstanding need for labor-intensive ag workers in that area, with 20% of all jobs tied to agriculture.”

He says the development’s biggest benefit is providing safe, affordable, and stable housing. Without it, a lot of residents would be living farther out in the country and typically in significantly older manufactured homes, with families often doubled up.

In addition to the housing, CCHS focuses on services for the residents, centered around education, health and nutrition, community engagement, crime prevention, and economic opportunities. Education programming, such as after-school and summer activities, early childhood engagement, and college campus visits, plays a big role, adds Ketcham, since it’s critical for long-term success.

The development, which is named after the patron saint of arts, pays tribute to Tieton’s iconic mosaic pieces that often showcase its agricultural history. CCHS has partnered with the Tieton Arts and Humanities to engage the residents and the youth to design two mosaics—one to be located at the development and the other to be located in Tieton—to provide the voice of the farmworker.

The $15 million development, which was completed in November 2021, was financed primarily with low-income housing tax credit equity.