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City council puts farm worker housing ordinance on hold

City council puts farm worker housing ordinance on hold

YAKIMA, Wash.- The option to move forward with housing hundreds of farm workers at the Fairbridge Hotel on North 1st Street has been put on hold after city council members ruled against a temporary housing ordinance.

The ordinance would allow farm workers from other countries to come and work and also provide them with housing, a plan that many city councilmembers are not okay with, including Dulce Gutiérrez.

"It would allow for people to be brought here with the intention of moving them into certain apartments or complexes or old motels to fill them in at the expense of displacing families that already live there," said Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez says shes seen it happen in other communities were this proposal has caused legal citizens to be evicted out of their homes and replaced with foreign farmers and says the primary focus should be housing the community here.

"Housing is a basic need that needs to be meet, and right now there's a shortage in housing for the residents that already live here. So it would only worsen the problem to people already living here," said Gutiérrez.

Many on the council ruled no because they needed more information on the ordinance, and needed more time to take it into consideration. Community members spoke in favor of the ordinance and argued that basic housing is needed for these farmers who bring so much agricultural profit to to our community.

Action News recently reached out to businesses who spoke out about the high crime rate on North First Street, and many locals last night were worried that adding more people to that area could make it worse.

Executive Director of Washington Growers League Mike Gempler says these farm workers aren't likely to be committing any crimes.

"I'm more concerned about the impact of the neighborhood on the H2A employee residents rather than the other way around," said Gempler.

Fairbridge Hotel owner Rob Valicoff says placing these workers in his hotel will actually help improve the area.

"We'll be an asset there, when we get done with our project, we will be at the top end of whatever is up on North Front Street," said Valicoff.

The hotel owner tells us they plan on having renovations complete by June 1.

The council says it's looking at study sessions to discuss options for housing farm workers.

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