History of the Office of Rural & Farmworker Housing (ORFH)

The seeds of the entity that was to become the Office of Rural & Farmworker Housing (ORFH) were planted in 1977, when Northwest Rural Opportunities (NRO) hired a Housing Program Coordinator in Grandview, WA to develop a farmworker housing project in Granger, WA.

The concept was compelling—ensure that those willing to work hard in agriculture, one of the most dangerous industries, could afford decent housing and still have enough money to meet their basic needs. The project won initial funding from Rural America in Washington, DC.

This model proved that when working people have a safe and stable place to call home, it enhances their efforts to build better lives for themselves and their families over the long term. Things went so well that Rural America provided additional funding, and in 1978, ORFH began to develop its own identity—first as an informal association under the NRO wing, with an advisory council and a newly established office in Olympia as well as a move of the original Coordinator from Grandview to an office within the Yakima Housing Authority’s then E. 8th Street, Yakima location. ORFH came into its own as an organization in 1979.

ORFH celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019, including the development of nearly 2,000 units of affordable, quality housing across rural Washington State; providing 7,500 individuals with a decent, stable place to live. Through these efforts, more than $150 million in public and private resources were invested in local communities, creating hundreds of construction jobs and numerous ancillary benefits like improved health and better educational attainment. Today it is well understood that the provision of affordable housing for agricultural workers is a contributing factor in reducing the potential for labor shortages in an industry so critical to many local communities. Agriculture is also the driver of one fourth of the state’s economy.

Today, ORFH is headquartered at 1400 Summitview Avenue, #203 in Yakima, WA and with a staff of 9, continues to develop affordable, quality housing throughout rural Washington state—for permanent, year round farmworkers as well as seasonal workers, senior citizens (including those with disabilities), veterans, and other low-income people. ORFH works tirelessly to advocate for housing for rural areas, seek partnerships to execute innovative solutions to such issues as the aging of existing development portfolios, and educate decision-makers about policies and programs and their impact on the delivery of affordable housing.