The Morgan Hill development is part of efforts to provide more affordable housing for underserved

By Staff Reports

The latest affordable housing development in Santa Clara County will include units for agricultural workers, bringing more livable options to some of the region’s most underserved and low-income residents. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved the project Aug. 31, clearing the way for construction of a 73-unit complex in South County called Royal Oak Village.

The complex, to be located at 15440 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill, will include 30 apartments for farmworkers, 18 for rapid rehousing to help homeless individuals and families with special needs, and 24 units for low-income families. (There will be one manager-occupied unit.) The $9.9 million investment from the county comes from the Measure A Affordable Housing Bond approved by voters in 2016 to address the area’s housing crisis, along with $400,000 in support from the city of Morgan Hill.

“The Housing Bond has made a tremendous difference so far, but many of these developments have really focused on the county’s urban core despite a huge need for more affordable housing in rural areas,” said Mike Wasserman, president of the county’s board of supervisors. “Farmworkers are essential community members who are critical to our agricultural success. This project takes us one step closer to ensuring they and their families have a safe and affordable place to live.”

The agricultural industry in Santa Clara County employs more than 8,000 residents and contributes about $830 million annually to the economy. Despite this, there is an estimated shortfall of 1,400 seasonal and 700 long-term housing units to support the employment demands of the industry. Recognizing this need, the county of Santa Clara is looking into more funding options to build farmworker housing.

Since voters approved Measure A in 2016 to address homelessness in Santa Clara County, the board has committed about $690 million in Housing Bond funds for low- to middle-income housing developments, along with a first-time homebuyer down payment assistance program. With the approval of Royal Oak Village, more than 3,600 units of affordable housing across 35 developments have been funded by Measure A.

Since January 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended lives and sent many families to the edge of financial and housing insecurity, Santa Clara County housed nearly 5,000 people and cut the number of newly homeless residents by almost 30 percent in the past 12 months. To maintain that momentum, it will be critical to continue building partnerships to collectively address the area’s housing crisis, with a key piece being housing for agricultural workers.

“We are thrilled to partner with the county to serve our farmworkers, unhoused residents, and workforce,” said Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine. “Quality and vibrant farmworker housing is long overdue. It brings me great joy to see this development move forward.”

Constantine and Assemblymember Robert Rivas drafted letters of support for Royal Oak Village.

“California’s farmworkers — who are overwhelmingly low-income — struggle with housing insecurity under even the best economic conditions. Workers and their families are often left with no choice but to sleep in their vehicles, in illegally converted garages, and sometimes even outdoors,” Rivas said. “Unless we create affordable housing to assist our most vulnerable populations, we will not make a significant dent in the ongoing housing crisis.”

Robert Airoldi