Valley Interfaith, EPISO Work with Legislators to Block Substandard Border Housing Bills
Valley Interfaith and EPISO teamed up to successfully oppose two bills that would have undermined the Model Rules for Development that govern real estate development in counties that border the Texas-Mexico border. The Model Rules for Development have been a critical tool that our organizations fought for over 30 years ago and which have limited the development of substandard housing lacking access to sewer and clean water lines, drainage and roads.
Valley Interfaith and EPISO leaders published guest columns, talked to their County Judges and development officials and met with all of their House and Senate members and asked them to oppose HB 4108 by Rep Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City) and SB 2037 by Senator Paul Bettencourt (Houston). Both of these bills would have undermined the requirements that property developers who sell property must build the necessary roads and develop sewer and water lines or pay for a bond guaranteeing that these basic utilities will be completed by the developer in the future.
HB 4108 sought to provide County Commissioners the right to waive the model rules in certain situations where they thought there was good cause. It would also allow a purchaser to sign a waiver assuming responsibility to install their own septic tank system in the future. Development officials in both El Paso and Hidalgo Counties, the two largest border counties, opposed this loosening of the “build it or bond it” requirement because they believe it would be used to exploit vulnerable buyers. Because of our opposition, this bill died without coming up for a vote in the House.
SB 2037 would have modified the laws governing platting state-wide. Among other changes, it would limited the right of cities and counties to set the minimum size of lots sold for development. The ability to regulate lot size is integral to enforcement of the Model Rules because lots under a certain size are deemed to be for residential purposes and therefore the subject of regulation by the Model Rules. Again, because of the work of Representative Mary Gonzalez (El Paso) and Terry Canales (Edinburg) and other Representatives from the Valley and El Paso, the House voted to table consideration of SB 2037 until after the end of the current session.
[In photos: Eddie Anaya of Valley Interfaith (left) and Silvia Camacho (right)]