Community Voices: The Building Communities Workshop Increases Equity in the Rio Grande Valley through Personalized, Affordable Housing Design
As real-estate prices continue to rise, affordable housing is an issue confronting communities throughout the country. Among these are the communities of the Rio Grande Valley, where a history of disenfranchisement, political oppression, predatory lending practices, and inequitable distribution of resources (often along racial lines) has resulted in concentrations of poverty, often in the form of colonias. For residents of the colonias (defined as isolated border communities “that may lack some of the most basic living necessities” such as potable water, electricity, and more) housing is often makeshift and unsafe. The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]), a Texas-based, non-profit community design center, is looking to change this. [bc] aims to increase equity in the Rio Grande Valley by providing low-income residents with expandable, affordable housing designed with direct input from the prospective homeowner.
One of the programs [bc] is using to accomplish this is MiCASiTA. MiCASiTA is an initiative lead by the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), and supported by [bc] and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC), that empowers individuals through personalized design options for low-cost homes that are designed to grow along with the homeowner’s needs and savings.
The construction of a MiCASiTA house begins with a meeting between the prospective homeowner and program architects to design a home based on the homeowner’s needs and desires. A cheap, simplified version of the design, called a “starter home,” is built first. As the homeowner’s financial stability grows, the home grows along with it, with additions being added until the original design is completed. Throughout the process, CDCB supports homeowners with innovative financial solutions and counseling, ensuring that the homeowners are fully prepared for the responsibilities that come with home ownership.
MiCASiTA works along the principle that choice is empowering. Providing families with the opportunity to design their own homes allows the home to reflect their specific needs and desires, and gives them a greater stake in home ownership. Following the success of MiCASiTA and other related programs, [bc] is working to disseminate the principles of their design process to other affordable housing developers out of the belief that people everywhere deserve to have input into the design of their homes.
By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow