Housing Diversity and Consolidation in Low-Income Colonias: Patterns of House Form and Household Arrangements in Colonias of the US-Mexico Border
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Colonias are low-income settlements on the US-Mexico border characterized by poor infrastructure, minimum services, and an active housing construction with a high self-help and self-management component. Housing in colonias is very diverse showing house forms that include temporary and permanent structures, campers, trailers or manufactured houses and conventional homes. Most of this housing does not meet construction standards and codes and is considered substandard. Colonias households are also of diverse nature and composition including single households, nuclear and extended families, as well as multiple households sharing lots. This wide variety of house forms and households in colonias fits poorly within the nuclear household, single family detached housing idealized by conventional low-income housing projects, programs and policies. As a result, colonias marginally benefit from the resources available to them and continue to depend mostly on the individual efforts of their inhabitants. This research identifies the housing diversity and the process of housing consolidation in colonias of the US-Mexico border by looking at the patterns of house form and household arrangements in colonias of South Texas. Ten colonias located to the east of the city of Laredo along Highway 359 in Webb County, Texas were selected based on their characteristics, data availability and accessibility. Data collected included periodic aerial images of the colonias spanning a period of 28 years, household information from the 2000 census disaggregated at the block level for these colonias, and information from a field survey and a semi structured interview made to a random sample of 123 households between February and June 2007. The survey collected information about house form and household characteristics. The survey also incorporated descriptive accounts on how households completed their house from the initial structure built or set on the lot until the current house form. Data was compiled and analyzed using simple statistical methods looking for identifiable patterns on house form and household characteristics and changes over time. Findings showed that housing in colonias is built and consolidated following identifiable patterns of successive changes to the house form. Findings also showed that households in colonias share characteristics that change over time in similar ways. These results suggest similarities of colonias with extra-legal settlements in other developing areas. Based on these findings, the study reflects on possible considerations that could improve the impact of projects, programs and policies directed to support colonias and improve colonias housing.
Reimers-Arias, Carlos Alberto (2009). Housing Diversity and Consolidation in Low-Income Colonias: Patterns of House Form and Household Arrangements in Colonias of the US-Mexico Border. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from