I recently had the opportunity to attend the 4th Annual Border Summit of the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB) in McAllen, Texas. I was joined at the summit by federal partners from USDA and Treasury—Judy Canales, Administrator for Rural Business and Cooperative Programs at USDA-Rural Development and Donna Gambrell, Director of the CDFI Fund.
During the summit, I heard from non-profit organizations about the lack of access to capital that many along the border experience and about asset building strategies for moving families out of poverty. In a site visit with Affordable Homes of South Texas, which uses funds from HUD, USDA and the CDFI fund, I witnessed the entrepreneurial, hard-working spirit of people in the region, from the middle-class residents of area cities to the very low-income residents of the colonias—thousands of small, predominantly Latino communities near the border where many residents lack access to water and sanitation services and where many families live in substandard housing, and where entire neighborhoods lack public drainage infrastructure.
It was satisfying to see HUD's programs at work, investing in southern Texas to help address these gaps in housing and infrastructure. I saw foreclosed homes that were purchased with Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) dollars, helping to mitigate the impacts of foreclosure on the neighborhood. I saw homes that were rehabilitated with HOME Investment Partnership Program dollars, making them habitable. I saw rural housing and economic development grants that were helping communities build critical infrastructure.
As a member of the White House Business Council, I also hosted a “Winning the Future with American Businesses” Roundtable. I heard about business owners' desire for increased access to credit from banks; I heard a local school official describe his goal of equipping students with the knowledge and skills to create their own jobs; I heard about one business owner’s desire to grow the region’s manufacturing industry and another’s desire to develop a national research lab. And from the members of NALCAB, I heard their commitment to grow the community economic development industry so that it, too, can help move the needle for the region’s economic growth.
The border region has been ground zero for foreclosures and predatory lending in the state of Texas, but it is also home to a rich culture of entrepreneurship and resilience. I very much look forward to continuing our work there.
Mercedes Marquez is Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development.