The rise of renters and renting in Texas colonias
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This report documents the growth of renting in Texas colonias, low-income informal settlements along the US-Mexico border. Historically, owner-occupied self-help and self-managed housing has been the norm in these settlements, so scholarly treatment of renting in colonias has been very limited. I begin with a literature review of housing development and housing policy in colonias, before turning, for comparison, to a discussion of renting in the US as well as in informal settlements in the developing world. Chapter 2 draws upon data from the US Census Bureau to describe the nature and extent of the colonia rental market in the six Texas counties with the largest colonia populations: my analysis reveals that renters now make up more than one in five colonia households. I expand on this discussion by examining differences between renter and owner households, paying particular attention to factors that make renters more vulnerable than owners. Chapter 3 employs a variety of regression models to identify the determinants of varying rental rates in colonias. The results suggest that larger, older, and more densely populated colonias have higher rates of renting. In Chapter 4, I utilize a mixed methods approach -- including household surveys, key informant interviews, and intensive case study interviews -- to a) better understand the tenure decisions of colonia renters and to place such decisions within a context of extreme socio-economic vulnerability and b) examine the factors that incentivize a turn toward renting among property owners. I conclude with a discussion of potential policy solutions to ensure that colonia rental accommodation remains affordable, accessible, and of sufficient quality.