The attitude shift is most apparent in individual cities, where housing groups have formed and businesses and residents are contributing money to the House Farm Workers campaign.
"There are many different types of players involved now," said corporate consultant Linda Braunschweiger, who heads the Camarillo housing group. Her clients include the nonprofit affordable homebuilder Peoples' Self-Help Housing and Affinity Bank, which has contributed $5,000 to the effort.
"The City Council tends to hear from neighbors who are opposed to certain projects," she said. "What we are doing is trying to bring [housing advocates] to the table so that when a project comes forward, city officials can hear the other side."
In each of the cities, the mission of the farmworker housing groups extends beyond advocacy. Members of each group actively seek to identify parcels on which farmworker housing can be built and help shape government policies to pave the way for construction of more dwellings.
Nowhere are those efforts paying bigger dividends than in Santa Paula, which has three farmworker housing projects, totaling 85 units, working through the planning process. Those projects include a 20-unit apartment development by the Sherman Oaks-based Corp. for Better Housing, scheduled to break ground in a few weeks.
The $12-million project, which has been three years in the making and required seven layers of financing, will consist of units with plush carpet, Whirlpool appliances and granite countertops. Units will rent for 40% to 45% below market rates, or roughly $645 a month for a two-bedroom apartment.
"We are very encouraged that the momentum has changed considerably," said Santa Paula resident Dora Crouch, an author and architectural history professor who heads the local housing group.
"It's a matter of changing peoples' perceptions," she said. "People are beginning to realize that the need for farmworker housing is not just 'their' problem, it's our problem too."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Since 1993, only 31 units of farmworker housing have been built in Ventura County. Advocacy groups have formed in five of the county's cities to help eliminate the crowded and often dangerous conditions endured by some of the area's 30,000 farm laborers.
Units planned or under construction:
Santa Paula: 85
Unincorporated Ventura County: 100
Source: Ag Futures Alliance Farm Worker Housing Task Force