Skip to main content Accessibility help

El Título en la Mano: The Impact of Titling Programs on Low‐Income Housing in Texas Colonias

  • Peter M. Ward, Flavio de Souza, Cecilia Giusti and Jane E. Larson


This article analyzes the impact of The Community Resources Group Receivership Program undertaken from 1998 to 2002 that provided clean property titles to residents in several informal housing colonias (subdivisions) in South Texas. Survey data were gathered from 260 low‐income households comprising two populations: those who had secure title from the outset, and those who were beneficiaries of the land titling program. Focus group interviews were conducted to explore how the beneficiaries construct the meaning of ownership before and after title “regularization.” Formal titling consolidates understandings of absolute property relations in comparison with de facto rights born of use (legal or not), which strengthens people's sense of self‐esteem and potential for political involvement. We found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, title provision per se appears to have little direct impact either upon home improvement or upon residents' receiving enhanced access to credit and financial services. We also found evidence that informality and illegality is likely to reemerge as owners die intestate, and as they revert to informal land market property transfers.



Hide All
Abrams, Charles. 1966. Squatter Settlements, the Problem and the Opportunity. Washington, DC: Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Angel, Jacqueline. 2007. Inheritance in Contemporary America: The Social Dimensions of Giving Across Generations. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Azuela, Antonio. 1989. La ciudad, la propiedad privada y el derecho [City, Private Property and the Law] . Mexico City: El Colegio de México.
Burgess, Rod. 1982. Self‐help Housing Advocacy: A Curious Form of Radicalism; A Critique of the Work of John F. C. Turner. In Self‐help Housing: A Critique, ed. Ward, Peter, 5597. London: Mansell.
Cosgrove, Serena. 1999. Engendering Finance: A Comparison of Two Micro‐finance Models in El Salvador. In Housing and Finance in Developing Countries, ed. Jones, Gareth and Datta, Kavita, 213–26. London: Routledge.
Cole, D., and Grossman, P. 2002. The Meaning of Property Rights: Law versus Economics. Land Economics 78 (3): 317–30.
de Soto, Hernando. 2000. The Mystery of Capital. Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. New York: Basic Books.
de Souza, Flavio. 1999. Land Tenure Security and Housing Improvements in Recife, Brazil. Habitat International 1 (23): 1933.
de Souza, Flavio. 2001. Perceived Security of Land Tenure in Recife, Brazil. Habitat International 25:175–90.
Fernandes, Edésio, and Varley, Ann, eds. 1998. Illegal Cities: Law and Urban Change in Developing Countries. London: Zed Books.
Gilbert, Alan. 2002. On the Mystery of Capital and the Myths of Hernando de Soto: What Difference Does Legal Title Make? International Development Planning Review 24:120.
Gilbert, Alan, and Ward, Peter. 1985. Housing, the State and the Poor: Policy and Practice in Three Latin American Cities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Also digital reprint in 2008.)
Gilbert, Alan, and Varley, Ann. 1991. Landlord and Tenant: Housing the Poor in Urban Mexico. London: Routledge.
Grajeda, Erika. 2008. Inheritance in Mexico: Current Testamentary and Property Regularization Policies. MA thesis, Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin.
Jones, Gareth, ed. 2003. Urban Land Markets in Transition. Collection of papers presented at the Comparative Policy Perspectives on Urban Land Market Reform in Eastern Europe, Southern Africa and Latin America, held at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, in Cambridge, MA, July 1998.‐Land‐Markets‐in‐Transition‐CD (accessed October 7, 2010).
Jones, Gareth, Jiménez, Edith, and Ward, Peter. 1994. Snapshot Analysis and the Impact of Public Policy on Land Valorization. In Methodology for Land and Housing Market Analysis, ed. Jones, Gareth and Ward, Peter, 214–35. London: University College London Press.
Jones, Gareth, and Mitlin, Diana. 1999. Housing Finance and NGOs in Developing Countries. In Housing and Finance in Developing Countries, ed. Jones, Gareth and Datta, Kavita, 2643. London: Routledge.
Jones, Gareth, and Ward, Peter, eds. 1994. Methodology for Land and Housing Market Analysis. London: University College London Press.
Larson, Jane E. 2002 Informality, Illegality, and Inequality. Yale Law and Policy Review 20:137–82.
Legoretta, Jorge. 1994. Efectos Ambientales de la Expansión de la Ciudad de México [Environmental Impacts of the Growth of Mexico City] . Mexico City: Centro de Ecodesarrollo.
Linn, Johannes. 1983. Cities in the Developing World: Policies for Their Equitable and Efficient Growth. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McLaughlin, John, and de Soto, Hernando. 1994. Property Formalization: The PROFORM Solution. Geomatica 48 (4): 307–14.
Mukhija, V. 2007. What's in a Name? A Critique of Colonias in the United States. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 3 (2): 475–88.
Mukhija, V., and Monkonnen, P. 2006. Federal Colonias Policy in California: Too Broad and Too Narrow. Housing Policy Debate 17 (4): 755–80.
O'Connor, Colleen. 1996. Empirical Research on How the Elderly Handle Their Estates. Generations 20:1320.
Riofrio, Gustavo. 1998. Why Have Families Not Used Mortgages? In Urban Land Markets in Transition, ed. Jones, Gareth.‐Land‐Markets‐in‐Transition‐CD (accessed October 7, 2010).
Texas Water Development Board. 1992. Water and Wastewater Needs for Colonias in Texas. Austin, TX: Water Development Board.
Turner, John, and Fichter, Robert. 1972. Freedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process. New York: Macmillan.
Varley, Ann. 1987. The Relationship between Tenure Legalization and Housing Improvements: Evidence from Mexico City. Development and Change 18:463–81.
Varley, Ann. 2002. Private to Public: Debating the Meaning of Tenure Legalization. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26 (3): 449–61.
Ward, Peter. 1999. Colonias and Public Policy in Texas and Mexico: Urbanization by Stealth. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Ward, Peter. 2002. Regularization in Latin America: Lessons in the Social Construction of Public Policy. In Urban Land Markets in Transition, ed. Jones, Gareth.‐Land‐Markets‐in‐Transition‐CD (accessed October 7, 2010).
Ward, Peter. 2003. Informality of Housing Production at the Urban‐rural Interface: The Not‐so‐strange Case of Colonias in the US: Texas, the Border and Beyond. In Urban Informality, ed. Roy, Ananya and AlSayyad, Nezar, 243–70. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Ward, Peter. 2009. Hacia una segunda etapa de la regularización de los títulos de propiedad en México. (O, visto de otra manera) “¿Ay mamá, por qué moriste sin dejar un testamento? ¡Ya hay que hacer la regularización de nuevo!'”[Toward a Second Round of Title Regularization in Mexico. Or Seen Another Way, “Ay Mother, Why Did You Die Without a Will? Now We Have Start Over with the Title Regularization Again!”]. In 2ndo Congreso Nacional de Suelo Urbano [Second National Congress of Urban Land] . ed. Iracheta, Alfonso, 123–39. Mexico City: Miguel Angel Porrúa & El Colegio Mexiquense.
Ward, Peter, and Carew, Jeremiah. 2001. Tracking Absentee Lot Owners in Texas Colonias: A Methodology. Journal of Land Use Policy 18 (2): 7386.
Ward, Peter, de Souza, Flavio, and Giusti, Cecilia. 2004. Colonia Land and Housing Market Performance and the Impact of Lot Title Regularization in Texas. Urban Studies 41 (13): 2621–46.
Ward, Peter, Edith, Jiménez, and Jones, Gareth. 1994 Measuring Residential Land‐Price Changes and Affordability. In Urban Land Markets in Transition, ed. Jones, Gareth and Ward, Peter, 159–78. London: University College Press.
Ward, Peter, and Peters, Paul. 2007. Self‐help Housing and Informal Homesteading in Peri‐Urban America: Settlement Identification Using Digital Imagery and GIS. Habitat International 31 (2):141–64.
Ward, Peter, Stevenson, Robert, and Stuesse, Angela. 2000. Residential Land Market Dynamics, Absetee Lot Owners and Densification Policies for Texas Colonias. Austin: LBJ School of Public Policy.
Way, Heather. 2010. Informal Homeownership in the United States and the Law. Saint Louis University Public Law Review 29 (1): 116–92.

El Título en la Mano: The Impact of Titling Programs on Low‐Income Housing in Texas Colonias

  • Peter M. Ward, Flavio de Souza, Cecilia Giusti and Jane E. Larson


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed