New housing option for farmworkers

Amy King, CEO of Pallet, displays a housing unit at a labor conference in Wenatchee, Wash., on Jan. 17. A slightly larger model meets requirements to house two H-2A-visa guestworkers.

WENATCHEE, Wash. — A Seattle startup company that makes small shelters for disaster victims and the homeless is pitching its units for farmworker housing.

Pallet, a Social Purpose Corporation, displayed its product at industry meetings this winter.

As a result of those meetings, 70 to 75 growers in Washington, Oregon and Canada have expressed interest and some will place orders when the units are approved by the state Department of Health, which should be soon, said Amy King, Pallet CEO.

“It’s great for growers to grow their housing capacity quickly,” King said. “If they have a common area (of kitchen, eating area and restrooms) and want to add housing for 20 more workers, they can put that up in a day.”

Pallet has been in business 18 months. It sold 40, 8-by-8-foot units to the city of Tacoma several months ago, half for the homeless and half for disaster preparedness, King said. A Utah tribal community bought one unit.

“Our original design was for disaster survivors and first responders but since then we branched into the homeless and agricultural workers,” she said.

A company employee tested a unit in the Wenatchee area last summer and growers became interested, King said.

Four bunks per unit meet code for disaster relief and the homeless but 50 square feet per person is the requirement for H-2A-visa farm guestworker housing. Pallet has designed a 100-square-foot model for two workers, she said.

Units are lightweight, durable and portable and come with their own structural floors so they don’t require foundations or concrete slabs, she said.

They have a 10-year lifespan and come with heating, air conditioning, electrical wiring and bunks. The polypropylene honeycomb core and fiberglass siding are built by Plascore, Zeeland, Mich.

Pricing is competitive with manufactured and stick-built housing that many tree fruit companies have turned to for H-2A housing, King said.

The 100-square-foot, two-person unit sells for $5,950 and a larger seven-person model is $13,000, she said.

Recommended for you