Review shows some progress in border housing since 1997

It will be seventeen years next month since the Border Low Income Housing Coalition was established and proposed a plan to address the substandard living conditions on the Texas side of the Texas- Mexico border. In preparing for a convening of people concerned with the living conditions today along that border, I got out the 1997 plan and reviewed what has taken place over those seventeen years.

The good news is that there has been significant progress. The bad news is that the lack of affordable housing and the number of substandard housing units has increased.

Here are the eleven recommendations from the 1997 plan and my view of what happened to each of those recommendations…

1) 1997 recommendation – Empower local residents and communities to solve their problems. Support the development of 50 new community based organizations in barrios and colonias on the border.

Today – Only a modest net increase in CBOs.

2) 1997 recommendation – Enforce laws to prevent development of more colonias. Stop the future development of colonias without proper infrastructure.

Today – Largely accomplished.

3) 1997 recommendation – Coordinate government assistance and comprehensive planning by establishing a complete database of housing, economic and social characteristics of border barrios and colonias, and by developing and implementing a master planning process to provide infrastructure, jobs and housing at the colonia level.

Today – No planning is being done. Water Development Board has a general inventory of infrastructure.

4) 1997 recommendation – Correct substandard infrastructure or provide it. Potable water and adequate wastewater treatment and disposal must be provided to every barrio and colonia by 1996; adequate streets by the same date.

Today – Great progress has been made on water and streets.

5) 1997 recommendation – Establish and implement a comprehensive community renewal program to rebuild neighborhoods in 20 of the worst colonias and barrios, with adequate safeguards for the rights of the residents.

Today – Not attempted.

6) 1997 recommendation – Identify and reduce environmental health hazards by the year 1996, by medical and environmental research, provision of health care and targeting major environmental hazards.

Today – Some accomplishments in establishing community clinics.

7) 1997 recommendation – Establish 10 owner-builder self help housing centers in six counties to develop new homes and rehabilitate substandard housing. Provide 1,000 lots in barrios for homesteading. Create 3,000 new public housing units in the border area. Provide rent support for 10,000 additional families in the border area.

Today – Accomplished.

8 ) 1997 recommendation – Provide financing for 3,000 owner-builder self help housing units affordable to families at 30 percent of Median Family Income. Refinance 5,000 existing contracts for deed.

Today – 1,000 homes built.

9) 1997 recommendation – Establish new high quality, low cost subdivisions. Create or recycle 6,500 lots in new subdivisions and urban areas affordable to families at or below 30 percent of area median family income.

Today – Program established but not implemented except in a few cases.

10) 1997 recommendation – Provide jobs skills and literacy training for low income border residents. Provide 3,500 persons employment through self help programs.

Today – Program established but not implemented except in a few cases.

11) 1997 recommendation – Create economic development opportunities for low income border residents. Provide 2,000 persons employment through public works set aside contracts. Provide 300 persons with retail business start up assistance.

Today – Public works jobs not accomplished. Some small business assistance provided.