Rural Neighborhoods’ President, Steven Kirk, testified before Congress in March 2021 before the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations at its Creating Equitable Communities through Transportation and Housing hearing. In answering the question as to how communities best apply a racial equity lens toward equitable development, he answered “no one knows the needs of a neighborhood better than the persons experiencing the struggle.” He noted “our housing and community development work is driven by people of color” citing RN’s diverse board comprised of 40% LatinX, 20% Black and 40% women membership and 90% minority staff. He cautioned elected officials against a rush towards newly formed entities to accelerate equitable housing. Instead, he encouraged proven housing groups to embrace greater racial diversity and to encourage mergers between organizations to blend organization diversity and scale.
Rural Neighborhoods and two south Florida non-profit organizations urged Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to reconsider his executive action to comply with ICE non-binding, two-day “detainer” requests after President Donald Trump threatened to deny unspecified Federal grants to cities and counties that don’t fully cooperate with immigration authorities. The heads of the Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations and Centro Campesino joined Steven Kirk in a February 3rd, 2017 Miami Herald “Open Mic” letter to the editor urging local elected officials to respect and uphold the rights of residents and leave immigration enforcement to the Federal government. Miami-Dade County Commissioners are demanding a vote on the Mayor’s executive action which could result in the turnover of more than 1,500 local immigrants annually. Click here to read the full article.
Rural Neighborhoods is honored to be a co-author in the book NeighborWorks Works: Practical Solutions from America’s Community Development Network. The recently released publication consists of case studies of the best work being done in community development as well as innovative solutions in affordable housing. Our excerpt “Nonprofit Takeovers: Tools for Tough Times” describes our ground-breaking partnerships in creating and preserving affordable housing in Immokalee. Our experience, the strength of the NeighborWorks network and its peer to peer resources allow us to build an elite solution-based platform to overcome the toughest of challenges to improve lives and strengthen communities.
The Handmade in Immokalee sewing class was the topic of a recent article by Naples Daily News reporter, Maria Perez. The sewing class started in November 2015 and is led by fashion designer, Gwendolyn Gleason. Each week, she works with students who are interested in learning to sew, whether for their own family, or to generate income for their family. Several elementary and middle school students are also taking advantage of the summer break to attend the sewing class.
The long-term goals for the group include helping participants learn new skills, increase self-esteem, and generate income. Gleason hopes to have the women complete enough products so she can sell them on the group’s behalf in Naples during season.
The class meets Wednesday mornings from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Roberts Senior Center in Immokalee (905 Roberts Avenue). For more information or to donate sewing machines or material, contact Dottie Cook at 239-658-3315. Read the article Immokalee Women Learn to Sew
As Collier County officials are trying to encourage development of more modest housing for families of nurses, police officers and teachers, they have shifted more of the burden of paying for new roads, schools and other necessities to the very homes those working families can afford, an analysis by the Naples Daily News shows. Read the article Fees for New Construction Hitting Modest Homes HarderRead the Full Article
Collier County is considering new rules that supporters say will improve conditions in mobile home parks, but others argue they don’t go far enough in requiring park owners to replace all substandard trailers. Read the article Collier County Looks to Change Rules for Owners
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Like many areas of Collier county, residential development is slowly picking up in Immokalee, where developers are building new homes for low-income renters and for buyers willing to pay $179,900 or more. Read the article Immokalee’s Home StretchRead the Full Article
We truly are an organization driven by our mission…. [Staff] take personal pride that they do their job well and do a great deal of good. For a charitable group like ourselves, measureable success opens doors to local elected officials, lenders and investors – and that means the opportunity to do more good.
Read the article Changing Perceptions: High Quality Housing for FarmworkersRead the Full Article
Cypress Cove is among the recent developments to benefit from the Tax Credit Assistance Program and the exchange funds that Congress passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to bolster LIHTC construction during the economic turndown.
Read the article AFH Making Farmworker Housing Mainstream 2012Read the Full Article
National public accounting firm Cohn Reznick Group profiles Rural Neighborhoods in a short video. Tom Neibaur, Director of Operations says, “We can put up the bricks and mortar, that’s the easy part. We could never have mastered the finance and accounting intricacies of our project without Cohn Reznick Group’s help.”
Please click on the full article link for the video.
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Haven site May 5th, for construction of a 3,944-square-foot project consisting of 80 apartment units. The project is different than other projects, because it will also accommodate local low-income families. “We have different types of communities, and this is a family community where only 40 percent are for agricultural workers,” Kirk said. “The other (units) could be for agricultural workers, too, but it’s for whoever qualifies.” It is an effort to change with the times. Many once-rural communities are becoming increasingly suburbanized, and more residents are finding jobs outside of traditional agricultural occupations.Read the Full Article
Housing is one of the most basic of human needs. The term includes a broad spectrum of abodes, from mansions down to minimal shelter. In this country, at this time, everyone should be able to afford a decent place to live. Like most places, adequate good housing is at a premium in this area. Those at the lower end of the economy feel that shortage even more keenly than others.
Read the article Low Income Housing Designed to Meet NeedRead the Full Article
Rural Neighborhoods has built the best apartments available, period, in places like Immokalee, Labelle and Okeechobee, he said. “We’ve changed the perception of farm worker housing. I would be happy to live in any of our developments.”
Read the article Gastronomica
Former Gourmet editor and James Beard award-winner Barry Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from Immokalee, FL and presents a who’s who cast of characters in the tomato industry. This New York Times best-seller includes The Builder, a chapter highlighting Rural Neighborhood’s role in improving agricultural housing.
Without the stimulus funding, the project “would have died on the vine,” says Kevin Tatreau, director of multifamily development for Florida Housing Finance Corporation. “Stimulus allowed for less than 60% AMI, says Steven Kirk, President of Rural Neighborhoods. “We try to get as many units set aside for extremely low income so farmworkers can take advantage of that.”
Read the article Stimulus Saves Farmworker DealRead the Full Article
It’s been a month since the family moved from Michigan, said Andrea’s mother, Heather Rodriguez, and they’re still settling into their new lives in Florida. It’s been an adjustment, she said, but a welcome one. “We’ve never lived in such a pretty place,” Rodriguez, 29, said of the new two-bedroom, two-bathroom town home the family is renting at the Reserve at Eden Gardens in Immokalee. “I’m in heaven.”
Read the article Immokalee Affordable Housing Project Fills UpRead the Full Article
To do that, the Homestead-based nonprofit housing organization which provides affordable housing for rural poor, migrants and seasonal farmworkers in Collier, Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties offers a program that gives tenants in their affordable housing developments 5 percent of their rent back to help them become a homeowner…. “We wish to encourage tenants to not spend their entire work life in an apartment, but move to homeownership,” Kirk said. “Not only is it good for your family, but for future generations.”
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This past week our legislators slashed $190M in affordable housing construction. Just as essential elected officials broke faith with working people, investors and other governments as it violated signed loan commitments previously agreed. Such rash, unthinking action results in the loss of $1B in construction expenditures, a thousand jobs and the risk of bankruptcy to charitable and for-profit firms alike.
Read the article Editorial: Lawmakers Lose Their Way Over Affordable HousingRead the Full Article
Marisol Avenir has spent the past four months living in a place she calls paradise. It’s a stone’s throw from the Dade County prison on a road that leads to farmland once devoured by Hurricane Andrew. “In Homestead,” she says, “I’ve lived in three different places. I’m super happy here.”
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Last week, just before Christmas, Jeb and Columba Bush stopped by the migrant camps in South Miami-Dade to have lunch – and start the annual Farmworker holiday celebration at Everglades Village, for the 10th year in a row. Columba Bush began the tradition a decade ago when her husband was still governor. She wanted to help teenagers at the housing complex for agricultural workers build after Hurricane Andrew decimated the trailer camp in which they used to live.
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The challenges of site acquisition, land use, and competitive financing are no different in communities targeting agricultural workers than in other affordable rental communities, said Kirk. “The added complexity in serving farmworkers is to understand agricultural markets and wages, and to layer sufficient subsidies to reach affordability.”
Read the article Seeds of ChangeRead the Full Article
“It took three years to get back to a sense of normalcy,” Kirk recalled. “In essence, Hurricane Andrew rebirthed Everglades Community Association from a local, inexperienced neighborhood group into an innovative and experienced statewide group focusing on rural communities. On her first visit to the spot last month, an Andrew survivor marveled at the improvements. “I got flashbacks during Katrina,” Alma Martinez, 22, said. “I remembered being here in a trailer during Andrew when the walls were trembling and all of a sudden I could see the sky. But look at this now.”
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Agricultural workers play an important part in Okeechobee’s economy. An apartment complex has just opened that is especially designed for that segment of our population. The Oaks at Shannon’s Crossing held a grand opening and ribbon cutting.
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Big Cypress Housing Corp. Inc. plans to develop rental housing units for legal migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Immokalee, west of Carson Road. The nonprofit housing organization will construct 92 multifamily rental housing units on the 20-acre property, named the Reserves at Eden Gardens.
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After Hurricane Wilma hit last fall, Marlene Brody repaired her storm-damaged seawall and returned to life as a snowbird, shuttling between her upstate New York horse farm and winter home in North Bay Village. But then Brody heard a radio news report that made her realize recovery had not been as easy for everyone.
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A 9-acre tract on South 25th Street, once home to some 100 dilapidated trailers, has a new life with 104 brand-new apartments, a clubhouse, pool, playgrounds and other amenities. Both the new Live Oak Villas and the former ABC Mobile Home Park, which was condemned by the city, cater to the same people – farmworkers and others in need of affordable housing.
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Unaccompanied workers are usually faced with the “last-least shelter” in a rural community; isolated units or ones far below building code requirements that at the “least” desirable housing in a local community and the “last” to be rented.
Read the article Rural VoicesRead the Full Article
Magali Perez, 25, remembers coming home from her job at a plant nursery, hoping she was next in line to use the kitchen shared by four families living under one roof. They shared one stove, so they had to cook and eat in shifts. She and her husband, Ramiro, and their five children now have their own kitchen.
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Miami-Dade Parks kicked off the opening of its newest addition Saturday with mariachis, Mexican food and a hot-air balloon – all while fighting off rain and mosquitoes. But the dreary day did not stop residents from enjoying the celebration. “We came to see the opening,” said Vanessa Godinez, 12, who went with her family.
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“They’re beautiful homes. There are places for kids to play,” said Carmen Roqueta, director of Tenant Services for Everglades Community Association, which manages farm worker housing properties throughout Florida. “No one can ever believe that’s housing for farm workers.”
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“Everglades Village is a much larger planned community than you would find in a typical tax-credit project or USDA-funded project,” says Steve Kirk, ECA’s executive Director, “Our Planning process was to build more of a self-contained community.
Read the article Planning Magazine: Migrant Not HomelessRead the Full Article
Ten years ago, hundreds of migrants who harvested Homestead’s winter vegetables lived in dilapidated trailers at the Everglades Labor Camp near Naranja. The camp was set up in 1974 with 400 mobile homes provided by the U.S. Labor Department.[Steven Kirk]’s nonprofit association has spent the past 10 years using more than $40-million in local, state and federal grants and loans to build permanent houses for the migrants, creating a community called Everglades Villages.
Read the article 10 Years After the Storm – Migrant WorkersRead the Full Article
In Homestead, farmworkers have a choice of living in what one resident calls paradise. The community is called Everglades Village. The housing project was built by an organization called the Everglades Community Association, a public-private group whose goal is to build decent and affordable housing for farmworkers.
Read the article Group to Build Housing for Immokalee FarmworkersRead the Full Article
The 120-acre mixed-use rental community is best described as A.A. – After Andrew. It is the reincarnation of a squalid mobile home park for migrant workers that was trashed by the 1992 hurricane. Of the 400 trailers – two sort of survived – while the demise of the others rendered 154 families instantly homeless. Rather than rebuild more of the same inadequate shelter, the Everglades Community Association, a nonprofit group that providess housing for migrant workers decided to do one better.
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In an unprecedented effort of cooperation, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman pledged their commitment to local farmworkers last week on a two-day visit to South Dade.
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Less than two years after the Everglades Community Association began a 500-unit project to house farm workers, 240 homes have been completed, 135 families have moved ir, and bids on the project’s second phases are expected to go out next month. Everglades Villages, south of Florida City on the way to Everglades National Park, is designed like a group of small neighborhoods, said Robert Chisholm, project architect.
Read the article Farmworker Housing Has Feel of Small CityRead the Full Article
“Cip” Garza remembers the Everglades Labor Camp when hundreds of migrant families stayed in broken down trailers with leaky roofs, sagging floors and no electricity.
Read the article Farm Laborers Getting New Housing ComplexRead the Full Article
The new housing complex, developed by the Everglades Community Association (ECA), a nonprofit agency that maintains both the Royal Colonial and the Andrew Center, is being paid for with $41.2 million in grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service; additionally, the We Will Rebuild Foundation, a private nonprofit group founded by local business leaders to help fund recovery in the area after Hurricane Andrew, kicked in a one-million-dollar grant. The finished project will have a population of approximately 2500 people, making it the largest planned community for farm workers ever built in the U.S.
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Juanita Mainster’s own life motivates her to rewrite the usual script for children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. The 42-year-old can easily recall being rounded up by the Border Patrol in fields north of Brownsville, Texas, and deported to Mexico — even though she was a U.S. citizen. “My parents were undocumented, so I got rounded up and thrown in the truck and hauled off with them,” she said.
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A seed planted more than 20 years ago in South Dade is finally yielding a harvest. The last of 240 foundations for single-family homes has been poured at the Everglades Farmworkers Villages…. The first 69 homes will be ready for families at the end of January – the result of a process that was first discussed in the early 1970s.Read the Full Article
An effort by Naranja Lakes residents to block construction of farmworker housing near their hurricane-ravaged neighborhood failed Tuesday when Metro commissioners overwhelmingly approved the project. Rejecting worries about more crime and poverty encroaching on the area, the commissioners voted 11-1 to go ahead with a plan for temporary housing for 300 migrant families on 42 acres in Leisure City, at the former site of the Royal Colonial Mobile Home Park.
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One of South Dade’s Farmworker communities is on the move. After months of delays, the Everglades Community Association has begun relocating trailers to a temporary site in Leisure City. Once the move is complete, construction of permanent housing will begin at the ECA site outside Florida City. “The funds have been allocated and thinks are looking very good for us to start construction by Oct. 1, said Enrique Vazquez, deputy director.Read the Full Article
The residents of Naranja Lakes and environs — living in a square mile of South Dade in not much better shape than the day after Hurricane Andrew — often feel like the storm’s forgotten victims. Their self-interests — some legitimate — now threaten careful plans to house temporarily other oft-ignored residents: migrant farmworker families.
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About 150 farmworkers and their children packed the Metro- Dade County Commission chambers Thursday afternoon to have their say about a controversial proposal to relocate farmworkers while permanent housing is built for them in South Dade. But they didn’t get a chance to speak.
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Proponents of a plan to provide permanent housing for South Dade farmworkers are not backing down from a key part that has come under fire in the last week. The housing plan developed by the Everglades Community Association includes the purchase of a trailer park in Leisure City that would provide temporary housing for about 1,500 farmworkers.
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Metro Commissioner Larry Hawkins wants to block the purchase of a South Dade trailer park that is a key part of a permanent housing plan for farmworkers in South Dade. The housing plan developed by the Everglades Community Association was unanimously approved three months ago by the Metro-Dade Commission. It hinges on the county buying land to temporarily house about 1,500 farmworkers in trailers while permanent homes are built southwest of Florida City.
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When Carmen Rivera gets to work every morning, she checks her office for messages and then starts walking. She’s a social worker who goes door-to-door at the Everglades farmworker camp, which houses about 400 families, visiting residents and identifying needs. She rarely has time to sit down in her sparsely furnished office. But when the phone rings, she stops in her tracks.
Read the article Social Worker Helps Change Farm CampRead the Full Article
U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello visited the ”poorest of the poor” victims of Hurricane Andrew on Saturday at a migrant camp on the edge of the Everglades. Everglades Labor Camp, a dusty, muddy sprawl in the flat grasses that abut the entrance to Everglades National Park, was almost overlooked after the storm. It’s not on any map. Soldiers in the U.S. Army discovered it after the storm.
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Usually Robert Torres would be in the fields now, preparing the flat, marly ground for young tomato plants set in rows that run straight into the horizon. But not this year. Not after Hurricane Andrew. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe all this,” Torres, 35, said Monday. A big man, Torres was sitting in a folding chair under a beach umbrella stuck in the lawn of his brother’s wind-racked house in the Everglades Labor Camp, about five miles south of here.
Read the article Migrant Workers’ Lives UprootedRead the Full Article
For a week, the migrant workers and field hands in the spartan Everglades Labor Camp four miles west of this farming center found themselves at the end of the relief lines, ignored and isolated as they battled hunger, thirst and then the weekend’s rains. Time and again, an ambulance or police car would stop, residents said today, scan quickly for life-threatening emergencies, then drive on again to tend to other problems, leaving the impoverished community to fend for itself.
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When an unlikely group of farmers, migrant workers and businessmen came together 18 months ago to run Everglades Labor Camp, they never dreamed they would meet with the success they have. Dade County turned management of the 420-trailer camp over to the nonprofit Everglades Community Association in December 1982.
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Everglades Community Association, the nonprofit corporation that rescued Everglades Migrant- Labor Camp from the auction block, finally has a county lease to show for it.The Metro Commission unanimously approved a lease Thursday giving the association full authority to govern the migrant- labor camp at 19400 SW 376th St.
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Four months ago, a 14-member board of deep South Dade growers, migrants, ministers and businessmen took over operation of the 400-trailer Everglades Migrant Labor Camp south of Florida City. The camp was hastily developed by Metro nine years ago to cope with a migrant housing crisis and a smallpox epidemic. Last summer, Metro commissioners voted to stop operating the migrant camp, saying it was costing taxpayers too much to subsidize.
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Just before Thanksgiving 1982, Donato Garcia burst into Trailer 3-6 at Everglades Migrant Labor Camp, joyous with news of “the elections” that would at last bring power to the farmworker. His wife Matilda remained silent — gazing at the unpaid rent bill and the barren refrigerator. “Please, Donato,” she remembers saying. “Don’t get into it. You’ll only get your heart broken.”
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Metro has called off next week’s threatened closing of the Everglades Migrant Labor Camp after growers agreed to rent half the camp’s 400 trailers Jack Campbell, secretary-treasurer of the South Florida Tomato and Vegetable Growers Association, said Monday that migrants will have to pay up or get out under the new management, which takes over next Wednesday. Under the new arrangement, the camp will be leased for $1 a year to the Everglades Community Association.
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Metro commissioners have agreed to turn the reins of the financially troubled Everglades Migrant Labor Camp over to a 15- member nonprofit corporation controlled by farmworkers. The management plan accepted last week was a blend of proposals forwarded by rival camp factions who recently have smoothed out their differences.
Read the article Nonprofit Group to Take ControlRead the Full Article