Farm Worker Housing and Development Impact Fees In Ventura County


February, 2023


Origin of Project

Beginning in 2019, House Farm Workers! focused its attention on the sixth cycle (2021-2029) update of Housing Elements in Ventura County. During the preparation of the Housing Elements, the issue of high development impact fees came up in the discussion of constraints to housing development, especially as they applied to affordable units. In 2020, HFW! explored conducting research that would expand its understanding of local development impact fees and the extent to which they affect the cost of developing new farm worker housing. HFW! also believed such research might be useful to policymakers as they make decisions about the development impact fees charged to farm worker housing as well as other affordable housing projects. 

Project Tasks 

At the outset, the study consisted of three primary tasks. First, the study aimed to identify and quantify all of the development impact fees assessed by the County and the ten cities. Second, using that fee information, the study intended to estimate and compare the fees on two example/template developments in each of the jurisdictions. Finally, the study sought to identify the policies and programs within each jurisdiction’s Housing Element that addressed the effects of development impact fees on affordable housing within their communities. 

Early in the study effort, it became clear that the first project task, and consequently the second as well, could not be completed. After reviewing their on-line information and contacting all of the ten cities and the County, it was clear that obtaining the data needed to document the fees and then calculate them for sample projects was not feasible. Simply put, neither the cities nor the County maintain a single fee schedule for development impact fees. Each of the cities and the County treat the matter in their own way, and in most cases the fees are collected by disparate departments and/or agencies. And some, like school fees, are often collected not by the cities/County but the appropriate school district. 

Finally, the calculation of example fees is further complicated by the fact that development impact fees are often site-specific, that is to say, dependent on the specific location of the project. For example, the same project in the same city might pay different impact fees depending on which side of town it is located. 

For these reasons, the initial tasks were set aside and replaced with the task of identifying the actual development impact fees paid by constructed farm worker housing projects. Section II of this study presents the results of that effort. The final task related to assessing the cities and County Housing Elements is presented in Section III.

One important note should be highlighted with respect to the “farm worker housing projects” discussed in this report. The projects do not represent the total number of units constructed and made available to farm workers. Additional units have been constructed on private farm/ranch properties, more general “affordable housing” developments have been made available to farm workers, and private H2A housing units have been provided. Identifying the number of units provided in these manners and determining the impact fees paid by each would require a significant effort and was simply beyond the scope of this exercise. 

What are Development Impact Fees

There is often confusion between development impact fees and permit processing fees. Development impact fees are assessed by cities and counties to pay for services and facilities (e.g., sewer service, water, parks and schools) necessary to support the on-going operation of the project. These fees are assessed through a pro rata share system based on the magnitude of the project’s impact or the extent of benefit that will be derived. Permit processing fees are those fees charged by local governments to cover the costs (largely staff costs) of processing the permit necessary for a development to be approved and constructed. State law limits fees charged for development permit processing to the reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged. 

While both development impact fees and permit processing fees can be significant and have a substantial impact upon the cost and affordability of much-needed housing, this study addresses only the former. 



The first step in the effort to determine the actual development impact fees paid by farm worker housing projects is to identify the projects themselves. A review of the HFW! files identified seventeen farm worker rental housing projects constructed within the County of Ventura since 2004, coincidentally the same year that the organization was founded. These seventeen housing projects, plus two additional projects currently under construction, became the focus of this task and they are identified in Table 1 below. 

Table 1 – Farm Worker Housing Projects (2004 to Present) 

Meta Street ApartmentsCity of Oxnard2004
Villa MaderaCity of Oxnard2005
Villa Cesar ChavezCity of Oxnard2006/7
Casa BellaCity of Santa Paula2007
Villa HermanaCity of Santa Paula2007
Villa VictoriaCity of Oxnard2007
Fillmore Central StationCity of Fillmore2010
Rodney Fernandez GardensCity of Santa Paula2011
Camino GonzalezCity of Oxnard2012
Valle NaranjalCounty of Ventura2012
Azahar Place (Citrus Place)City of Ventura2012
LimoneiraCounty of Ventura2015
Snapdragon PlaceCity of Ventura2015
Etting RoadCounty of Ventura2016
Rancho VerdeCity of Ventura2018
Villa Las BrisasCity of Oxnard2020
Garden City CampCity of Oxnard2020
Somis RanchCounty of VenturaUnder Construction
People’s PlaceCity of Santa PaulaUnder Construction

The second step in the review process is to determine the development impact fees paid by the projects in Table 1. The projects were constructed within five different jurisdictions. Each of those local agencies was contacted and data regarding the collection of development impact fees was solicited from the Community Development/Planning departments. It proved difficult to obtain fee information from all of the jurisdictions for all of the projects. The table indicated “N/A” for projects where fee information was not obtained. The total fees collected and the number of housing units for each project are summarized in Table 2 below. 

Table 2 – Farm Worker Housing Project Fees

ProjectNumber of UnitsFees Paid
Meta Street Apartments23$249,500
Villa Madera7$440,992
Villa Cesar Chavez51$180,300
Casa Bella40$358,412
Villa Hermana23$0
Villa Victoria27$334,300
Fillmore Central Station21N/A
Rodney Fernandez Gardens51$1,632,271
Camino Gonzalez18$335,800
Valle Naranjal65N/A
Azahar Place (Citrus Place)30$1,390,916
Snapdragon Place27$431,703
Etting Road42N/A
Rancho Verde24$324,358
Villa Las Brisas441N/A
Garden City Camp77N/A
Somis Ranch360N/A
People’s Place21$1,539,953


information was available for only eleven of the seventeen identified farm worker housing projects. In addition, the Villa Herman project in the City of Fillmore was a rehabilitation of an existing development and therefore was not required to pay any development impact fees. Thus, only ten of the projects could be fully evaluated. Those ten projects provided 319 housing units and paid a total of $7,218,505 in development impact fees, for an average of $22,626 in fees per unit. Given the variety of factors associates with each project site, and the complexities and variability of development impact fees within each jurisdiction, any further analysis would be difficult and of limited value. 

In addition to the development impact fee data, information regarding total cost was collected for two of the farm worker housing projects. For those projects, the total cost per housing unit illustrates the significant differences that may exist between development projects. One project yielded a per unit cost of $991,964 while the other yielded a per unit cost of $363,372. However, as a total percentage of project costs, development impact fees represented similar amounts: 4.7% and 4.4% of the project costs. 

While local jurisdictions were specifically asked about the amount of development impact fees levied on the identified farm worker housing projects, they were not asked about the timing or deferral of such fees. However, in collecting the data it was found that the City of Oxnard did in fact defer the collection of some of the development impact fees on the Villa Madera project. This is a significant action and can provide valuable financing assistance to affordable housing developers. More specifically, a 15-year deferral can be classified as a local match that can help secure financing/grants for affordable housing developments. 



Beginning in 2019, House Farm Workers! focused its attention on the sixth cycle (2021-2029) update of Housing Elements in Ventura County. Among the issues researched and tracked by HFW! was each jurisdiction’s consideration of development impact fees and their impact upon farm worker and other affordable housing projects. Accordingly, HFW! looked at: (1) How DIFs are discussed in Housing Elements as a potential constraint to development; and (2) The programs within Housing Element Action Plans that deal with development impact fees. 

Links to Housing Elements of Ventura County and Cities

The research work done to complete this study was conducted in mid-2022.  Because the work of the County and cities on their Housing Elements is an on-going effort, it is important to note the specific documents that were reviewed as part of this study.  Provided below are links to those documents. 


The Housing Element review looked at two issues. First, it looked at the degree to which the jurisdiction discussed and addressed the potential effect of development impact fees within its goals, policies and programs. Second, it looked to see if the Housing Elements included specific information regarding the fees assessed by the jurisdiction upon housing units. Table 4 on the following page summarizes the information. 

In only three cases (the Cities of Camarillo, Fillmore and Thousand Oaks) did the Housing Element include no substantive goals, policies or programs aimed at addressing the potential effect of the city’s Development Impact Fees upon the ultimate cost of affordable housing. Similarly, most of the jurisdictions included copies of their processing and development impact fees within their Housing Elements. Only the City of Port Hueneme did not include a fee schedule, while the Cities of Fillmore and Thousand Oaks provided the schedules solely related to permit processing fees. 

The most common program outlined within the Housing Elements (included in four cities) is a commitment to review impact fees. The language within the City of Ojai Draft Housing Element is representative of this program; it reads “The City will periodically evaluate and adjust its regulations, ordinances and development fees to ensure that they do not unduly constrain housing production.” Two of the cities included references to looking at possible “financial incentives” for affordable housing, while the County has a program to “…analyze the effectiveness of implementing a..Housing Impact Mitigation Fee Program.” 

The City of Oxnard has included perhaps the most specific programs directed at addressing the effect of development impact fees upon affordable housing. The two programs read: 

Program 29.1 

By the adoption of the FY 2022-23 budget, establish a fee deferral program for affordable housing projects. 

Program 29.2 

By the adoption of the FY 2022-23 budget, establish a partial fee waiver program for all affordable housing projects that can be granted by the Community Development Director. 

These efforts by the City of Oxnard, should they prove successful, should serve as a blueprint for other Ventura County cities and the County as they review and analyze their development impact fees and their effect upon farm worker and other affordable housing projects. 

Table 3 – Ventura County Housing Elements – Development Impact Fees

JurisdictionStatusReference PagesFee ScheduleGoals/Policies/Programs Addressing Development Impact Fees
CamarilloFinal7-98 to
FillmoreDraft3-20 to
Processing Fees OnlyNone
MoorparkDraft40, 140 and 151YesPolicy 4.1 & Program 21. Development Fee Review
OjaiFinal46 to 47 and 60YesGoal 3, Policy H-8 “periodically evaluate and adjust fees to ensure they do not..constrain housing production.”
OxnardFinal27 and 4-105YesHE-1.7 “..offer financial incentives as funding permits.”
Port HuenemeFinal1-26
NoProgram 17 “monitor fees to determine whether they are inhibiting housing production”
Santa PaulaDraft51 to 53YesGoal 4, Policy 4.2 “Periodically review … residential fees to ensure that they do not unduly constrain housing development” (pp. 63)
Simi ValleyDraft4-105YesPolicy 1.7 “…financial incentives as funding permits..”
Thousand OaksFinal64 to 66Processing Fees OnlyNone
VenturaFinal9, 24 to 25, and 27YesPolicy 4.3, Programs 24 and 29 “establish a fee deferrals program for affordable housing.”
County of VenturaFinal5-122 to 5-124YesProgram K, Inclusionary Housing and Housing Impact Mitigation Fee Assessment (pp. 3-14)

In the process of reviewing and commenting on draft Housing Element programs and policies, HFW! volunteers realized that the preparation of Housing Elements offered an opportunity for communities to develop a policy approach to support affordable housing projects through deferment of impact fees. Currently, the deferment of development impact fees appears to be done on an ad hoc and very limited basis. An effort should be made to “institutionalize” such programs through the development and adoption of broad deferment policies. In addition to the City of Oxnard program cited above, the City of Santa Paula has taken a first step in this direction with Program 20 in its Draft Housing Element, which reads “To the extent feasible, the City will defer the payment of development impact fees for 15 years, which would allow affordable housing projects to count that as a public funding source, which helps increase competitiveness when applying for low income housing tax credit allocations.” HFW! has requested the City of Fillmore to include similar wording in its Housing Element. 


A review of development impact fees paid by farm worker housing projects over the last twenty years found that a significant amount of fees were assessed to those projects. Ten projects paid a total of $7,218,505 in development impact fees. This amounted to $22,626 in fees paid per housing unit. For two of the projects, these fee amounts were compared to the total project cost and it was found that the development impact fees represented between 4.4% and 4.7% of the project/per unit cost. 

The County and a majority of the cities have included goals, policies and/or programs intended to address development impact fees and affordable housing. However, with the exception of the City of Oxnard, there is no timeline for completing the fee review and analysis. The City of Oxnard’s commitment to complete its program by the adoption of its 2022-23 budget demonstrates a high priority for the effort. HFW! should track the City’s work on this program in an effort to ensure it is relevant to the production of farm worker housing. Should the City of Oxnard develop and adopt a program to defer and/or waive impact fees for affordable housing, HFW! should work to share the program with the other cities and the County to encourage adoption of a similar program. 

Finally, given the importance of development impact fee deferrals to securing funding for affordable housing projects, the ten cities and the County should be further encouraged to develop and adopt policies and programs to formalize the 15-year deferral of development impact fees for affordable housing projects regardless of whether the recently-adopted Housing Element contains such a program.