By Rhashad R. Pittman
They plant and harvest the crops that keep our bodies healthy. Yet the homes where they sleep and raise their children are anything but.
Many of the farm workers who work the fields of the Central Valley live in substandard conditions. Some families even have homes that rest on dirt floors.
For many of them, finding affordable housing is already a challenge, but getting housing that provides decent living conditions is nearly impossible. Visionary Home Builders of California hopes its latest housing project helps address this need.
“We’re very excited to introduce this new community for farm workers,” Ornelas said “Our history goes back to farm workers looking for housing. We make sure our roots are never forgotten.”
The Stockton-based nonprofit organization recently completed Casa de Esperanza, a multi-family housing project located east of Mariposa Road and just west of Highway 99. It includes 69 units that range from studio to four-bedroom apartments.
Applications are currently being accepted for Casa de Esperanza, which is the organization’s third housing project built for laborers in the agricultural industry.
“Our farm workers have definitely suffered from inadequate housing,” said Carol Ornelas, CEO of Visionary Home Builders. “There’s this whole myth that everybody who works on the farm are illegal and shouldn’t be entitled to government funding. … If they’re hardworking people, I believe we have a responsibility to house them.”
Casa de Esperanza will feature apartments with dishwashers, refrigerators, and washer and dryers in every unit. Residents will also receive free Wi-Fi service. The apartment community will include a playground, community center, health clinic, social services, and classes.
The organization says it uses a “family strengthening approach” to improve the health, social, educational, and economic aspects of families.
“We really strived to make this a great living environment,” Ornelas said. “Anybody who lives there will feel part of a community.”
Construction of the $18 million complex is being funded by a combination of private investors, loans, and grants, including an $11.5 million Federal Tax Credit grant. Rent for the complex will not be more than 30 percent of a resident’s income.
Visionary Home Builders was formed in 1983 by a small group of farm workers who set out to improve the living conditions of farm workers living in public housing. The group started by building nine homes.
Since then, Visionary Home Builders has grown into one of the leading organizations in the area that provides affordable housing for low and moderate-income families and individuals. To date the organization has built more than 700 single-family homes and 1,200 apartment units.
Its communities are “planned and developed with the goal of improving the surrounding neighborhood, as well as add richness to the lives of each tenant,” its literature states.
Casa de Esperanza will be for both current and retired farm workers and their families. The name of the complex was selected for its meaning, which translates to “House of Hope.”
“It means that when you move in there is a light of sunshine,” Ornelas said. “Hope for the future, hope for their families’ lives, that it will all be better for them.”
For more information, or to apply to move in, contact Visionary Home Builders at (209) 466-6811 or visit the organization’s office at 315 N. San Joaquin St., in Stockton.