September 21, 2001

Farmworkers' Homes Provide `No Refuge From The Fields,' Says New Housing Assistance Council Report

WASHINGTON — Structural problems, broken appliances, and overcrowded living conditions are common among farm-workers' homes, the Housing Assistance Council reported today as it released the results of a recent survey. Families with children suffer the worst conditions.

"This is the first nationwide survey of farmworker housing in twenty years," noted Housing Assistance Council Executive Director Moises Loza, "and it confirms what smaller studies and anecdotal descriptions have been saying. Farm-workers work incredibly hard to put food on other people's tables, but all too often they live in dismal conditions."

More than half the homes surveyed were overcrowded, and three quarters of those crowded units were occupied by families with children. Twenty-two percent lacked at least one functioning major appliance (stove, refrigerator, bathtub, or toilet), 22 percent had serious structural problems, and more than half lacked access to a working laundry machine. Children lived in two thirds (65 percent) of the units classified as severely substandard, and in 60 percent of the homes that were adjacent to fields where pesticides were applied.

"Many issues need to be addressed in the United States today — security, education, health care, and others," Loza stated, "and this study dramatizes one of those needs. Hard-working Americans and their children should not be living in these conditions. We know how to solve these problems. Partnerships between national housing organizations like HAC, local groups, governments, and growers can make good use of financial assistance. We need to help farm-workers obtain better homes, help owners repair existing buildings, and construct new affordable units."

This major research project was conducted over three years from 1997 through 2000. Data on 4,625 housing units in 22 states and Puerto Rico were collected in a non-random survey by more than 100 outreach workers from 16 organizations that work with farmworkers around the country, and analyzed by the Housing Assistance Council.

Major funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "No Refuge From the Fields: Findings From a Survey of Farmworker Housing Conditions in the United States" is available on HAC's Web site, http://www.ruralhome.org. Print copies may be ordered from HAC for $4.00 each, including postage and handling.

A national non-profit corporation headquartered in Washington, D.C., and founded in 1971, the Housing Assistance Council publishes numerous reports, program manuals, and other materials on rural housing topics. HAC helps local organizations build affordable homes in rural America by providing below-market financing, technical assistance, research, training, and information services. HAC's programs focus on local solutions, empowerment of the poor, reduced dependency, and self-help strategies.

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