NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Solving The Problems Of Substandard "Colonias"

October 17, 2000

Beginning around 1950, private "developers" sold lots in areas along the Texas-Mexico border with the promise that streets and services would be forthcoming. However, these "subdivisions," which have come to be called "colonias, " were in unincorporated, sometimes remote areas where city services were not available.

Despite the lack of water and sewer services, new landowners began building homes, and the largely poor colonias now are home to 400,000 people.

After decades of neglect, Texas Secretary of State Elton Bomer says the state has taken action in recent years to improve living conditions in the colonias.

  • Since 1990, the state has spent $600 million on installing water and sewer mainlines using $250 million in state bonds and $350 million in federal funds.
  • This effort has helped many residents; but for others who were not able to pay the $1,500 fee to connect to the mainlines, $25 million in funding was obtained to connect the remaining 25,000 unserved households to water and sewer systems by 2001.
  • Six "colonia" ombudsmen were stationed in the six counties with the highest concentration of the substandard communities to help residents get connected.
  • In addition, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison led the effort to persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to allow the Texas Water Development Board to use federal funds to connect individual households.

Bomer, charged by Gov. Bush with implementing a sweeping colonia improvement plan, says that "With those improvements, nearly every resident in Texas colonias will have clean water, period."

Source: Elton Bomer (Texas Secretary of State), "Colonias: Bush Brought More Improvements Than Any Texas Governor," Dallas Morning News, October 15, 2000.


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