Cutting-Edge Energy-Efficient Housing for Farmworkers

Cutting-Edge Energy-Efficient Housing for Farmworkers

Posted on July 31, 2017

Agriculture is a huge part of the economy in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Yet the rural Madera County community of La Vina has a greatly underserved farmworker community with historic levels of overcrowded, cost-burdened, and substandard housing. Like rural agricultural based economies across the nation, most farmworkers in La Vina are some of the lowest income earners in California and struggle to access decent, affordable housing for their families.

To help meet the housing need of the community, Self-Help Enterprises developed the Casas de la Vina apartment rental community in two phases beginning in 1992. The 56-unit affordable housing property not only provides a safe and permanent place to call home, it also now includes energy-efficient features that ensure a sustainable future for the residents. This year, Self-Help Enterprises received funding from the Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP) to install solar PV and other energy conservation measures at Casas de la Vina. Improvements included upgraded hot water systems for more efficient hot water distribution, replacement of all older windows with new energy efficient dual pane windows, replacement of older air-conditioning/heating units with new air-conditioning/heating units, new interior and exterior LED lighting, new faucet aerators and shower heads, attic insulation and duct sealing, and replacement of older refrigerators. The solar PV was sized to offset all of the common area and residential electrical loads.

These improvements have resulted in Casas de la Vina being the first known farmworker housing retrofit to achieve zero net energy. This means the total amount of energy used by the buildings on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on site. This reduces utility bills for residents and the property while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

All 56 energy-efficient units are exclusively limited to low-income farmworker families. All of the residents are entitled to means-tested rental assistance, and as a result, no Casas de la Vina resident pays more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

Beyond providing decent, affordable housing, Self-Help Enterprises offers quality resident opportunity programs held at the Casas de la Vina community center. These programs are designed to enhance the everyday lives and futures of the residents and include an after-school program for children, financial fitness classes, computer literacy lessons, a free lunch program, nutrition classes, and English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

The combination of affordable housing, energy-efficient features, and educational services contributes to the growth and sustainability of the Casas de la Vina community.

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