State Budget Delivered Blow to Impoverished Texas Exurbs
Daniel C. Vock discusses the plight of poverty-stricken exurbs along Texas' border with Mexico. "The predominantly poor residents of colonias -- makeshift subdivisions often far outside city limits -- have bought land or cheap houses from unscrupulous developers who promised to eventually install electricity, running water and paved roads." In many ways unheard-of elsewhere in the U.S., residents have been left to their own devices.
There have been efforts to help these neighborhoods. In terms of inadequate infrastructure, "Texas cracked down on the worst offenders in the 1990s, but change has been slow. Many of these communities still lack even the most basic infrastructure systems." Vock goes on, "In 1999, Gov. George W. Bush signed a law that created a state ombudsman program to help colonia residents figure out the myriad programs available to help them."
"But Gov. Greg Abbott this summer effectively terminated Bush's program. [...] The move came as a surprise to many officials who represent border areas with colonias, because there had been almost no talk in recent years of cutting the program." Abbott characterized the program as unnecessary red tape.
According to El Paso County Commissioner Vincent Perez, there's not a lot individual Texas counties can do to help colonia residents. "Texas law [...] prevents counties from imposing zoning requirements on developments that could've prevented many of the ongoing problems with colonias, Perez says." Perez also made it clear that "pressure to address the infrastructure problems in colonias will continue to build, especially in the El Paso area, where the sprawling city is encroaching on once-isolated neighborhoods."