CDBG 30th Anniversary Recognition of Excellence
In 1986 and 1988, the City of Pharr annexed the two sections of an area known as Las Milpas, one of the first "colonia" subdivisions in south Pharr. The Las Milpas area was known as the largest Colonia in South Texas with a population of 9,564 and more than 2,000 homes. At that time, Las Milpas was a substandard subdivision that lacked many of the essential infrastructure improvements such as drainage, sewer, water and street paving. The area's high poverty heightened the need for social, health and economic services, all sorely lacking. The majority of the Las Milpas residents (84 percent) earn less than 30 percent of the area's median income.
Colonias originated in the early 1940's in rural areas of the county because of the lack of adequate housing and development standards. During the 1970's and 80's, the number of colonias grew rapidly as developers took advantage of this. They knew there was high demands for residential lots with affordable payment terms. While the downpayment might have been considered affordable at $10-to-$50, the financing terms and land the families were buying were not. The interest rates were extremely high, with the majority of these transactions on a "Contract for Deed" basis with no underwriting criteria. Most of the housing was developed in low-lying areas with no flood controls.
Since its annexation, the City of Pharr began to make significant infrastructure improvements to upgrade the area with more $37 million dollars of CDBG funds directed to this ongoing project. Potable water and sewer services were provided to more than 4,450 families in the area, and as utility infrastructure improvements utilizing CDBG monies were put in place, the City began funding paving and drainage for six neighborhoods. At the same time, the City provided various facilities in the area including a fire department substation, a Boys and Girls Club, a community center, and a police substation.
In 2000, the City of Pharr received approval of a Section 108 Guaranteed Loan to provide improvements to the Las Milpas/Pharr Industrial Park that has provided for the economic and infrastructure development needed to stimulate the local economy. Combined with other federal funding, the Industrial Park and the designation as a Free Trade Zone serves as a catalyst to attract private enterprise both north and south of the border, thereby boosting the incentives for employment in Las Milpas and surrounding South Texas communities.
Today, the Las Milpas/South Pharr area is no longer considered a Colonia, as it has now become a growing community with pride. Latest Census figures show a population of more than 17,000 with 3,300 housing units. With this increase in population, the needed infrastructure in place, ongoing economic development and social services available, many new businesses have opened in the area, thereby creating even more jobs and providing goods and services. In August 2004 the area welcomed its first Jack in the Box Restaurant. All it took was one national chain to open its doors in Las Milpas, and now others are following in its footsteps.
Content Archived: April 26, 2011