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Article, Refereed Journal

The rise of renters and renting in Texas colonias

Habitat International, 43, 72-78.

Noah J. Durst

Owner-occupied housing is the norm in the low-income, informal settlements along the US–Mexico border known as colonias. As a result, renters and renting have been largely overlooked by both scholars and policymakers. Using GIS technology and data provided by the US Census Bureau from 2000 to 2011, this article is the first to 1) document the growth of renting in these settlements in recent years and the nature and extent of the rental market, and 2) explore important differences between owner and renter households and the myriad ways in which colonia renters are more vulnerable than homeowners. The results suggest that renting in colonias is largely informal and occurs primarily in single-unit homes, many of which were built via self-help by the owner and have since been converted to rental property. As a result of these findings, it is argued that renting in colonias more closely resembles the rental market in informal settlements throughout the developing world than it does the rental market elsewhere in Texas, and thus the rise of renting in colonias presents unique challenges that merit attention by both scholars and policymakers. The article concludes by drawing upon insights from research on renting in the developing world in order to highlight key policy priorities regarding renting in colonias.

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