OXNARD, Calif. — Even when her husband is at work, Blanca Quezada makes sure his plants are being nurtured.
“He likes flowers very much, you can tell,” she said in Spanish.
Quezada is married to a farmworker and, despite the long hours and grueling work, one of the biggest challenges her family faced years ago, was finding housing in Oxnard.
Now, she said, the situation has gotten worse.
“Difficult, the rents are very difficult, and it’s hard to find a home for the whole family to have privacy and space,” Quezada said.
Over the years, California’s housing shortage has hit this agricultural community harder than others, as demand for housing grows, but affordable options remain scarce.
With more state funding coming in, an affordable housing developer in Ventura County, called Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation (also known as CEDC), is trying to add more units to the market, as fast as they can.
On Wednesday, they hosted a groundbreaking ceremony with Dolores Huerta — a civil rights titan — in attendance. It was held to celebrate the 58-unit affordable housing building that will be constructed at the site in her name.
Fifteen of the units at the Dolores Huerta gardens will be for homeless veterans, and the rest are dedicated to agricultural workers and their families. The building will have a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units.
One of CEDC’s volunteer board members, Mayra Ramirez, who also works in the agriculture industry, said the development is vital for the Oxnard community.
“It’s really hard for our farmworkers, even for us being part of it, to be able to pay that amount of money just on rent… we still have to buy meals, pay gasoline, insurance,” she said.
Ramirez said the fact that these homes also come with child-care and tutoring services, makes it easier on parents who are working in the fields.
“Having that support at the same place where you live, it’s really helpful, it’s really amazing,” Ramirez said.
Quezada’s family was lucky enough to secure a spot in one of CEDC’s earlier developments — a 100% affordable housing community near La Colonia, where a lot of farmworkers in Oxnard live.
She said with this space, her family has been able to stick together, and her children and grandchildren have had the chance to focus on their education.
“Right now, if we didn’t have this apartment… the kids wouldn’t have had the freedom to go to school, and we wouldn’t have privacy and a dignified place to live,” she said.
It’s the kind of shelter and comfort that Quezada said changed her life.