Farmworker Housing Program

Prior to World War II, labor to harvest crops was available locally. Since then, labor has been required to travel from other states and countries. Housing must be provided for these workers. Farmers find this a burden and expense, and the quality for the worker is often below standards. A better solution was needed for both farmer and worker.

Design Corps has developed the Farmworker Housing Program to build quality new housing on farms where there is a need. The program is a true partnership that involves the farmers and the workers in the process of developing the design and making it affordable to both through the assistance of federal funds, which are secured by Design Corps.

Design Corps receives numerous inquires from farmers interested for this program. In the Resource section of this website are two documents which explain this program. The first details the services offered and the steps of the process for on-farm housing in order to clarify expectations and establish Design Corps’ and the farmers’ responsibilities. The second document is a Needs Assessment Form that should be completed by interested farmers then mailed to Design Corps for a feasibility assessment of the project.

Florida Migrant Housing Program & 2004 Hurricane Response

Responding to the devastation from one of the most active hurricane seasons on record (as reported by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) is the greatest challenge facing Central and Southern Florida today. This challenge is further complicated for the approximately 300,000 migrant workers of Florida’s agricultural industry because their annual family incomes do not exceed $10,000 per year and affordable housing is either severely limited or restricted to dilapidated mobile homes. The hurricanes exacerbated the existing shortage and farmworkers face overcrowding in the limited housing available as well as limited employment opportunities due to extensive crop damage.

Affordable Quality Design: By providing customized designs through end-user participation in the design process, Design Corps has been able to deliver specific products that address the highest priorities of the clients. This effectively allocates even the most limited resources to the most valued criteria. The farmworkers primary design concerns have been for housing that accommodates diverse cultures, counters the stigma associated with farmworker housing, and provides flexibility in configuration that allows for long-term use. While the manufactured housing industry has gained ground in middle- and upper-income markets, it is important that the industry continue to develop its original client base, low-income households, with better products and improved image.

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, Florida Legal Services began working with Design Corps to design a manufactured housing unit specifically designed for long-term value, hurricane resistance, and to meet the needs of Florida’s farmworkers. Consultations primarily with migrant farmworkers and with many others involved in farmworker housing issues such as growers, non-profits, Catholic charities, HUD, and the Department of Health have informed the design process and infused the project with specifications responsive to existing housing problems.

Mushroom Worker Housing (Chester County, Pennsylvania)

Design Corps considers working with clients as the most critical part of the design process. The enthusiastic participation of more than 20 migrant workers in this design process demonstrates the most important form of community support–that of the future users of the housing.

In May 2002, Design Corps Fellows Kindra Welch and Kersten Harries interviewed 15 men working for Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms, Inc. All were migrant workers living in housing managed by the mushroom company. Participation in interviews was voluntary; answers were anonymous and sources were confidential. Each interviewee was asked at the end of the conversation if they would like to continue working with Design Corps to design the new housing. All said they would like to as long as they were in the U.S.

Demographic information was collected. The 15 interviewees ranged in age from 19 to 60 with an average of 34 years. Seventy-four percent of the men were married with their wives living presently in Mexico. The two oldest and two youngest men were all single, but still had family in Mexico. Fourteen out of the 15 were from the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

The participatory process continued in a weighted design game, where each interviewee had a finite amount of resources (beans) and could decide how to allocate these. This exercise was repeated with each person until they felt they had allocated these as best as possible. The results showed the following examples of priorities: 4.1 persons to share and apartment; 3.3 people to share a bathroom; 1.8 people to share a bedroom. They also expressed highest priorities for washer/dryer, telephone access, air conditioning, and a soccer field. All of these were incorporated into the design–and in some cases exceeded. This will be the first migrant housing design by Design Corps which allows each person to have their own bedroom.

Participants also helped create the site plans, using symbols to arrange housing units, porches and sports areas. Several participants introduced their own site elements such as soda machines. The small work groups presented their schemes to the larger group for comment and discussion.