Land titling in Starr County Colonias along the Texas-Mexico border: Planning + stability issues Academic Article uri icon


  • The impact on planning of one major land title regularization program in Starr County colonias in the Texas-Mexico border is discussed. This program, which ended in 2002, was undertaken by the Community Resources Group (CRG) and resulted in about 1,000 titles being cleared and formally assigned to their proper owners. To analyze this program we used a comprehensive approach involving new empirical data. In this paper we present data gathered from a survey of 260 households and interviews as well as focus groups organized with affected residents in colonias. The data revealed that the new legal owners expressed in many different ways the positive results in terms of their self-worth, sense of belonging, and feeling of being respected citizens as they pay property taxes. We also found that colonia residents are choosing (either freely or determined by fragile markets) to stay and live in these communities, thereby exercising the use value of their property and not its exchange value. We also observed that the implications of this intervention are limited. New owners are not entering financial markets due to their new ownership. Residents worked hard to buy their lots and make improvements and they are not willing to risk losing them through the financial system. Besides, "titled" colonias do not differ dramatically from "untitled" colonias: they still lack basic infrastructure and are still isolated communities. New owners are still low-skilled workers who have no access to financial markets. Proper ownership is a positive policy but it alone can result only in limited impact in colonias. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive planning approach in the whole border region to allow colonias and their residents to continue improving their communities with more institutional and legal support.

published proceedings

  • Projections

author list (cited authors)

  • Giusti, C., Larson, J., Ward, P. M., de Souza, F., & May, M

complete list of authors

  • Giusti, C||Larson, J||Ward, PM||de Souza, F||May, M

publication date

  • January 2007