We Don’t Stop Until the Last Family Gets a Home!

Mr. and Mrs. Gopar in front of their new Riverside County home.

Mr. and Mrs. Gopar in front of their new Riverside County home.

15 years ago, CRLA’s Coachella office filed 30 fair housing complaints with the Fair Housing Enforcement Office of the United States Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against Riverside County alleging that the County unfairly applied its health and safety laws against Latino residents of mobile home parks in the Eastern Coachella Valley.  The complaints indicate that the County was engaged in discriminatory code enforcement targeting low-income Latino families living in small mobile home parks.  It also alleged that the mobile home parks were unfairly targeted for closure in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, community development, and civil rights laws.  As a HUD grantee, Riverside County is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of any protected class, including race or national origin, whether intentional or in effect, and cannot use federal funds received from HUD in a discriminatory manner.  HUD’s investigation found that the County appeared to have violated the prohibitions against unfairly using those funds and discriminated against low-income Latino farmworkers in the Eastern Coachella Valley.  The 30 complainants entered into a voluntary settlement and enforcement agreement that now serves as a critical backbone for CRLA’s housing work in Riverside County.

The County agreed to a $21 million dollar settlement, paying out millions of dollars to repair the harm done after by closing and threatening to close mobile home parks that provided the only affordable housing for farmworkers and other low-income families in the Eastern Coachella Valley.  Each family was given financial assistance and support to buy a home or relocate to other housing.  The County agreed also to construct what is today known as the Farmworker Service Center located in downtown Mecca, California.  The Center provides essential public benefits services that, prior to the settlement, were not directed at the community.  The agreement further called for the County to employ sufficient bilingual health and safety staff, establish a fair housing education and outreach plan, support the creation of an independent nonprofit housing corporation, create and fund two mobile home parks for farmworkers, fund a new housing project within the City of Coachella, and provide up to $10 million dollars for low-income housing programs in Coachella, Thermal, Mecca, and Oasis, among other relief. 

CRLA has helped each client navigate their individual settlement with the County which provided for financial assistance for first time homebuyers.  Mrs. Gopar’s was the last of the 30 clients to receive her settlement.  Mrs. Gopar moved into her three-bedroom home earlier this month.  This is the first time she has owned a home.

“It was a huge deal for CRLA’s clients to take on Riverside County,” said Lorena Martinez CRLA Coachella Community Worker.  “They had to be strong and patient.  I am so happy to see the last of the 30 clients receive their settlement.”

CRLA Coachella continues to monitor the implementation of the settlement agreement and in March 2014 will argue on behalf of one of an original complainant that compliance is still needed on a cleaning and bathing facility.  Because of reports that itinerant farmworkers had nowhere to bathe or wash their pesticide-ridden clothes, the settlement agreement called for the creation of a permanent bathroom, shower, and laundry facility with adequate parking in close proximity to the Farmworker Service Center in downtown Mecca.  This permanent facility near the service center has not yet been built.

“It’s incredibly satisfying that the last of the individual complainants has received their share of the settlement, but it’s equally important to remember that the larger purpose behind this is to provide reparations to a long-neglected community,” said Blaz Gutierrez, CRLA Coachella Interim Directing Attorney.  “We are committed to making sure that all parts of the settlement are fully implemented in a manner consistent with the spirit of the agreement.”

Click here to read the settlement agreement


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