What’s next for the families in unsafe red-tagged farm housing?

Physical and emotional consequences of substandard housing for farmers and their families alarming

In May, the San Mateo County Department of Health redtagged housing units at Marchi Central Farms and Upper Campinotti, because water testing revealed that nitrates in the drinking water were more than six times the federal safety standards putting babies at grave risk for death or permanent injury.

In addition, investigations by Julia Scott at the San Mateo County Times revealed that residents had been living in substandard housing conditions for many years.

A wide range of health risks have been associated with housing conditions of farm laborers and their families, including anxiety, depression, exposure to toxic agricultural chemicals due to proximity to fields or contaminated clothing, increased risk of infectious disease due to poor sanitary conditions, to name only a few. These health risks are currently being researched by staff at California Rural Legal Assistance, a legal organization that represents several residents at Marchi properties.

Puente’s staff has spent countless hours working with families, meeting with the county human services and health departments, meeting with the property owners, and advocating for safe housing and drinking water. As we write today, many of the housing units have been upgraded and the County has informed the property owner that he has until October 15 to remedy the issues with the water system.

At the end of the day, the only solution to farm worker housing on the South Coast is to develop and build new affordable housing and work with farm owners to upgrade existing housing stock.


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