Fruit of Their Labors: New Farm Worker Housing

3 min read

Colorado growers decided to act on the pressing need to give farm workers affordable housing close to where they work.

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Delta, Colo.—Several years ago, southwestern Colorado growers decided to act on the pressing need to give farm workers affordable housing close to where they grow and harvest grapes, peaches, apples and corn. That spurred the development of a new farm worker housing community called Alta Vista de la Montana in Delta, Colo., which officially celebrated its opening on January 12th.

Denver-based Community Resources and Housing Development Corporation (CRHDC), a statewide non-profit housing development corporation that became an integral participant in the initiative, developed the 40-unit community.

“We had been working up there for four years with local growers and community groups,” CRHDC executive director Al Gold tells MHN. “The growers expressed concern about the lack of affordable housing for farm workers, and felt that to attract the quality workers they needed quality and affordable rental housing.

“The whole process took place over four years, and the growers helped fund a market study. They selected Delta because it was centrally located among the corn growers, grape growers and wineries in that area.”

According to Gold, Delta is situated about 350 miles west-southwest of Denver, near Grand Junction, Colo.

Traditionally, growers tended to provide some of the housing for farm workers, Gold reports. That still is the case, but on a much more limited basis. “Non-profit organizations have taken on that responsibility, because growers are not in the business of developing, maintaining and owning housing,” he says.

Among the amenities offered by Alta Vista de la Montana are central air conditioning, in-unit energy-efficient appliances and a community building. The apartments were designed and built using Energy Star-certified materials and appliances. Energy-efficient roofing, windows and doors, as well as high-grade insulation, have been incorporated throughout Alta Vista de la Montana.

The $7.9 million project was financed with a mix of public and private financing. But getting the tax-credit investor lined up proved a major challenge, Gold says.

“We had an investor who worked with us for six [or] seven months, and 30 days before closing pulled out,” he recalls. “We had to start from scratch in finding another investor. One of our consultants was able to contact an investor he knew, who was interested in the tax credits, came aboard and provided the financing we needed.”

Among those entities providing funding for the community were USDA Rural Development, RCAC, NeighborWorks America and CHFA.

Another hurdle was identifying land in the proper location and possessing proper zoning, Gold says. Only such a parcel would allow those involved to avoid having to go through a public meeting. “We were able to identify a piece of property with the proper zoning, but it took a while to find,” he notes.

Applications are being encouraged from those who would like to live at Alta Vista de la Montana. To qualify, applicants must earn 50 to 65 percent of their annual incomes from agricultural work, and must be legal residents of the U.S. Rents are determined on the basis of applicants’ yearly incomes, and will not exceed 30 percent of annual earnings, according to CRHDC.

“This is a quality-built development that will help stabilize the work force in Delta, and surrounding communities,” Gold says.

“These are all three- and four-bedroom units, and they’re designed so that if for some reason the crops happened to dissipate, [the development] could accommodate the general public as rental housing.”

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