Robert Rivas

The state Assembly on March 24 approved legislation introduced by Assemblymember Robert Rivas that aims to make is easier for farmers to build family-friendly housing for farmworkers.

The bill won with bipartisan support on a 59-11 vote in the Assembly, and will now be heard in the state Senate.

“California’s housing shortage has been particularly tough on farmworkers and their families,” said Rivas, a Hollister Democrat, in a statement. “As the grandson of a farmworker, I grew up in farmworker housing myself. I know how critical it is that the farmworkers who help feed us and contribute to our state’s economy have a safe and decent place to call home. AB 1783 provides farmworkers and their children an opportunity for a better life.”

Rivas, a Democrat from Hollister, represents the 30th Assembly District, which includes Gilroy, Hollister, Morgan Hill and San Juan Bautista.

The Farmworker Housing Act of 2019 creates a new streamlined process for farmers to partner with non-profit organizations to build high-quality farmworker housing on agricultural land. It sets quality standards to ensure that the new housing is “dignified and family-friendly,” and puts safeguards in place to protect the environment. The state’s financial support of farmworker housing will be focused on family-oriented projects rather than the federal temporary guest worker program.

“I applaud my fellow Assembly leaders for their support of this bill and their commitment to addressing the critical lack of affordable housing in rural areas,” Rivas continued. “I look forward to [the bill] moving through the state Senate so we may begin to alleviate the overcrowding in farmworker housing and provide farmworkers and their families the relief they desperately need.

“This bill is an important step forward, but it is just the beginning,” Rivas said, adding that it “lays the foundation for future legislation that will provide additional resources to build high-quality farmworker housing. Agricultural workers deserve a safe and decent place to live, just like every other Californian.”

Civil rights icon Dolores Huerta was on hand for the vote and praised the effort to build housing for California’s farmworkers. “I applaud Assemblyman Rivas for taking a bold stand to protect our farmworkers,” Huerta said. “He is right: Our farmworker communities are facing a humanitarian crisis. [This bill] can serve as the foundation of a broad movement to build housing for our workers.”

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