Housing Conditions Of Migrant And Seasonal Farmworkers (1997)
Migrant, seasonal workers are a critical labor force for planting and harvesting a variety of agricultural products in Virginia. Seasonal surges in demand for such labor are largely met by migrant workers who come from outside the United States in search of temporary employment. Within the agricultural economy, the farmer and the migrant worker have a symbiotic relationship that is structured by several important constraints. The most important of these are the seasonality of the work, the low skill level of the work, and wages set by a competitive market ultimately driven by a price-conscious consumer.
The living conditions of migrant farmworkers have always been difficult. This is no less so for the condition of their housing. During the work season, labor camps must find inexpensive housing for a surge of workers. By its nature, the demand for this housing is temporary; but temporary shelter is difficult to provide. Housing is capital intensive, which means it is expensive compared to most other products. Providing decent quality housing for permanent residents with low incomes in American communities is an ongoing unmet challenge. Providing decent quality migrant housing is an even greater challenge, one which concerns not only the grower and the worker, but the state. Reflecting this concern, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Board commissioned the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research to study migrant farmworker housing conditions within the Commonwealth. In addition to surveying the quality of housing of migrant workers, the Center was asked to determine the magnitude of need and level of interest among growers for a housing loan program to assist growers in upgrading farmworker housing.