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Local non-profit pushing state legislature to bring more affordable housing to the Valley

Local non-profit pushing state legislature to bring more affordable housing to the Valley
1 year 3 months 3 weeks ago Monday, March 27 2023 Mar 27, 2023 March 27, 2023 12:49 PM March 27, 2023 in News - Local

The Brownsville non-profit organization, Come Dream Come Build, is pushing to bring more affordable housing to the Rio Grande Valley.

With the current state legislative session underway, they plan to bring the issue to the attention of lawmakers.

The Esparza family has been living along West Washington in Brownsville for 14 years. Space in their two-bedroom apartment is tight for the family of five.

"My two boys are sharing the room, my daughter sleeps with her mom and I sleep on the couch," Tony Esparza said.

The Esparzas hope to one day move into a four-bedroom home, but the cost to buy a home is too high for them right now.

"I want to move on to a better future. My landlord told me, well she's not kicking me out, but they're growing. My daughter needs a room by herself and my two other kids," Esparza said.

Come Dream Come Build wants to help families, like the Esparzas, afford a bigger place to live.

They're asking state lawmakers to help ease the housing shortage and affordability crisis, an issue that extends outside the Valley.

"I think, across the state, affordable, housing is an issue," Come Dream Come Build Director Daniel Elkin said.

Come Dream Come Build and other housing organizations across the state recently met with members of the Texas House Appropriation Committee. They asked lawmakers to invest some of the $500 billion Texas has from the American Rescue Plan Act to build more affordable housing units and homes.

"Specifically for populations under kinda 80% of the average median income," Elkin said. "Those are the households that are most cost burden and really face a rough mental situation right now." 

Come Dream Come Build believes building more affordable homes and apartments will help bring down prices overall.

"The amount of units is not going up, so I always say this is a tragic game of musical chairs. You have more people than there are units chasing after them. This is what's kinda creating that prices to kinda tick up," Elkin said.

According to CDCB, on the rental side, Cameron County shows a deficit of 19,747 affordable rental units. On top of that, there are more than 9,000 units where renters are paying more than 50% of their income on rent.

High rent prices and the cost of a home are plaguing families, especially with low income. Come Dream Come Build says the average price of a home in the valley is going for around $260,000, a price many Valley families cannot afford.

"When you tell people that to people who live in Austin or other parts of the state, they say, 'that's amazing, I'm going to move to the Valley because that sounds like a great price to pay for a house,'" Elkin said. "What they don't realize when they say stuff like that is in this region median household income, not individual, an entire household median income is like $43,000." 

The Texas Tribune reports state lawmakers have introduced several bills this legislative session aimed at speeding up the construction of new houses and apartments.

Come Dream Come Build hopes new housing and apartment units will be affordable.

"As this place where all these outside organizations want to come and invest which is fantastic, but build the houses so that people that come here can live and with houses that are affordable so that people who already live here can have affordable housing as well," Elkin said.

The Texas Legislative session is set to end in May.

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