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Forum on farm worker housing in Yakima in the works

 (Yakima Herald-Republic)
(Yakima Herald-Republic)
By Emily Goodell Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA – Efforts toward a collaborative policy on temporary farm worker housing in Yakima County are moving forward.

Details of a countywide public forum on housing for farm workers are on the agenda for the Yakima City Council’s meeting Tuesday.

A draft of the agenda for the forum has it happening in the second or third week of January at the Yakima Convention Center.

“The purpose of the forum is to determine if this issue is a concern of other cities in the Yakima Valley, and to explore a regional approach to locating H2A worker housing,” the draft agenda says.

Prior to changes made in November, the city did not have an exact definition of an extended-stay hotel or motel in its municipal code. The issue was brought up last year when a former North First Street hotel – once one of the largest in Yakima – was converted to temporary farm worker housing.

At that time, the council put a moratorium on developing extended-stay hotels to allow time to develop a definition. Council members voted Nov. 13 to define an extended-stay hotel or motel as “where more than 10 percent of the rooms are rented to the public for longer stays, which are more than 30 consecutive days.”

The change made extended-stay hotels subject to a higher level of review. While not specifically addressed in the change, temporary farm worker housing falls under the definition of extended-stay hotels and motels.

The city code does not define temporary farm worker housing, but an ad hoc committee of three council members is trying to change that, starting with the public forum.

Potential invitees include mayors and other city officials from Toppenish, Wapato, Union Gap, Selah, Grandview, Sunnyside, Naches and Granger. Members of the Board of Yakima County Commissioners, New Vision/the Yakima County Development Association and Yakima Valley Tourism are also on the list.

Representatives from local and state agricultural entities, including Valicoff Fruit, Zirkle Fruit, Borton Fruit, Allan Brothers, Washington Growers League, Washington State Tree Fruit Association and Washington Fruit, may be invited to attend.

Other potential attendees include the Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing, Yakima Housing Authority, Catholic Charities Housing Services, One America, Low Income Housing Alliance, Northwest Justice Project and Columbia Legal Services.

The Yakima Valley Council of Governments will facilitate the forum.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 129 N. Second St.

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