Monday, June 27, 2005

Colonias Get a Bad Rap

It is probably very politically correct in the RGV to rag on colonias. If you don't live in the RGV, you may not know what a colonia is. Literally translated, a colonia is a colony. Now, imagine back to the times when the pilgrims came to the US. There was no running water or sewage. No utilities. Well, maybe not so bad. Often colonias are able to get electricity.

In any case, a colonia is an underdeveloped subdivision. We always see news stories on local television telling the rest of the Valley how bad conditions are in the highlighted colonia. You get interviews of the residents complaining that there is no pavement, or phone service, or sewage, or other amenities. Usually, the people complaining are dirt poor. It never occurs to the reporters or the residents that the reason that the residents of these colonias can afford to buy the property is that they know in advance that these amenities are not available. You very well know that a fully developed subdivision will have lots at $20K to $40K per lot. Colonia lots, on the other hand are available around the $10K to $15K range over 10 years.

I grew up in a colonia which was later upgraded with sewage. I dare say that if the subdivision were fully developed, my parents may not have been able to afford the 2 lots that they bought. As it was, they could barely afford the cost of living in a colonia. So, before you go looking down on the developers of colonias, keep in mind that they offer the prospect of ownership to residents. You may be proud of your quiet and gated community. Keep in mind that there are people out there that earn more or less than $12,000 per year. Colonias are the only way that they have to build equity in anything. By demanding higher standards, you are severely hurting the poor.

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