Journal of Housing & Community Development

Rancho Verde Provides Community to Farmworkers in Ventura

October 22, 2021
by Libby Miller

The Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura won a 2020 Award of Excellence for Project Design for constructing Rancho Verde, an energy-efficient multi-family development for farmworker households. Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

Rancho Verde is a newly constructed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified project developed by the Housing Authority City of San Buenaventura (HACSB). Built in response to the shortage of safe and affordable housing for farmworkers, the apartments available at Rancho Verde are a mix of one- to four-bedroom units spread across 11 residential buildings organized around a common area with courtyards. The project’s energy source is 80% offset by on-site solar and a Greywater system conserves water usage.    

The development’s open courtyards offer space for families to interact and socialize, allowing for a sense of community among residents. A stand-alone community room anchors the project and provides residents with access to a computer room, community kitchen, and the property manager’s office. HACSB drew upon local partners including Ventura County Credit Union, California Vanpool Authority, First 5 Ventura County, Food Forward, Ventura County Public Health, and others to ensure that a broad range of services are provided to meet the needs of Rancho Verde’s farmworker population. 

Rancho Verde is part of the UC Hansen Trust Property Specific Plan Area, encompassing nearly 36 acres of undeveloped land between Telegraph Road and Saticoy Avenue in Ventura. In 1992, Thelma Hansen, the sole survivor of a long-time Ventura County farming family, died and left all her estate in trust to the Regents of the University of California with the direction that it be used for the sustainability and benefit of agriculture in Ventura County. The Regents of the University of California determined that the Hansen Trust property should be sold, with proceeds used to endow the trust’s programs. The University’s planning goals specifically include providing land for farmworker housing, which was stipulated in a Development Agreement stating that two designated parcels would be donated to the Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura.  

Consistent with Thelma Hansen’s mission, the Rancho Verde project provides its housing units exclusively to farmworker families. The need for affordable housing is particularly acute for Ventura’s farmworkers. According to a 2004 General Plan Study, farmworkers are severely underserved by the county’s housing market. The lack of affordable housing for farmworker families has led to an increase in the number of overcrowded and unsafe units which further strains a labor force that is vital to the health of the county’s economy. Beyond the need for more housing, it was also necessary to Thelma Hansen’s legacy the project be designed to minimize its environmental impact. The project features multiple energy-saving features to both help the environment and lower residents’ monthly expenses.  

In addition to these physical design features, all residents received “green training” as a part of HACSB’s service programming to teach families how to reduce their carbon footprint and make more sustainable lifestyle choices.  Rancho Verde is also one of the first low-income developments to have an electric-vehicle car charging station on site in Ventura County, incentivizing the use of electric cars.  

Rancho Verde is an important step in meeting the housing needs of farmworkers in Ventura. The project was completed in a timely manner and remains at full occupancy since it opened, further highlighting the need for this type of housing investment.  

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