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In 1995, the 74th Legislature passed Senate Bill 1509, a legislative directive to establish colonia self-help centers in Cameron/Willacy, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb and El Paso counties as well as in any other county designated as an economically distressed area. Five colonias within each county are identified to receive concentrated attention from its respective self-help center. Operation of the colonia SHCs is carried out through a local nonprofit organization, local community action agency, or local housing authority that has demonstrated the ability to carry out the functions of a SHC. The program rules are available on the Secretary of State website and also here.
The law also requires the establishment of a Colonia Resident Advisory Committee (C-RAC) to advise TDHCA on colonia residents’ needs and provide guidance on programming and activities in the selected colonias. Each county selects two representatives residing in colonias served by self-help centers as primary and secondary C-RAC members. The C-RAC has been instrumental in voicing the concerns of the targeted populations and has helped both the Department and the colonia SHCs develop useful tools and programs.
Colonia SHCs provide concentrated on-site technical assistance to low and very low-income individuals and families in a variety of ways including housing, community development activities, infrastructure improvements, outreach and education. Key services include: housing rehabilitation; new construction; surveying and platting; construction skills training; tool library access for self-help construction; housing finance; credit and debt counseling; grant writing; infrastructure construction and access; contract-for-deed conversions; and capital access for mortgages. OCI Border Field Officers provide technical assistance to the counties and SHCs.
The SHC program serves 28 colonias in seven counties; five counties are designated by statute and two counties are designated as economically distressed areas. These counties have approximately 10,000 colonia residents who qualify to access these services. The Department contracts with the counties who conduct needs assessments to prioritize activities. Then, through a Request for Proposal, the counties procure qualified organizations who can provide specific services as well recommend which colonias need attention. The County oversees their implementation of contractual responsibilities and insures accountability. Each SHC is allocated sufficient funds to serve designated colonias, as well as provide limited assistance to move residents from targeted colonias to other designated areas.
Colonia SHCs are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "Texas Community Development Block Program"(CDBG) 2.5% colonia set-aside, which is approximately $1.5M annually. CDBG funds are facilitated through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department and the Texas Department of Agriculture and may only be provided to eligible units of general local governments. The Department's OCI Division provides administrative oversight and maintains relationships with all the units of general local government and SHCs to ensure that the housing and community development activities within each contract are achieved. Colonia SHCs are encouraged to seek other funding sources to help them achieve their performance measures.
For more colonia SHC information, please contact Albert Alvidrez at email@example.com.