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The Week Ahead: Developing the Nation’s Colonia Regions

On Tuesday, November 15 at 9:00 a.m. Central, the House Financial Services Committee will host a hybrid hearing titled, "Persistent Poverty in America: Addressing Chronic Disinvestment in Colonias, the Southern Black Belt, and the U.S. Territories."

This hearing will focus on persistent poverty in the colonias, the Southern Black Belt region (Black Belt), and the U.S. territories, and the housing and community development needs and challenges in these communities, which are predominantly rural. The colonias are defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as communities located within the 150-mile region along the U.S.-Mexico border that “lack adequate water, sewer, or decent housing, or a combination of all three.” The Black Belt encompasses predominately Black rural communities in the area extending between Arkansas and North Carolina.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) recently proposed to amend the Agency’s Duty to Serve (DTS) Underserved Markets regulation to facilitate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s (the GSEs) activities related to serving colonias. According to the proposed rule, the FHFA would revise its Enterprise Duty to Serve Underserved Markets regulation to add a definition of “Colonia Census Tract,” which would serve as a census tract-based proxy for a “Colonia,” and amend the definition of “High-Needs Rural Region” in the regulation by substituting “Colonia Census Tract” for the word “Colonia.”

The proposed rule would also update the definition of “Rural Area” in the regulation to include all colonia census tracts regardless of location. These changes would make Enterprise activities in all colonia census tracts eligible for the FHFA’s Duty to Serve credit.

Since 1991, HUD has made funding available specifically for colonias communities in the four Border States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

“FHFA is committed to promoting affordability, equity, and sustainability in the nation’s housing finance markets, especially in underserved communities,” said FHFA Director Sandra L. Thompson. “With this rule, we seek to remove barriers that have hindered the Enterprises’ Duty to Serve activities for people living in colonias.”

The hearing will feature the following witnesses:

Arriaga-Salinas is responsible for the human resource work, procurement, grant writing, and implementation of certain grants for Proyecto Azteca. She provides quality control to ensure timely achievement of program benchmarks, correspondence as needed and recommends and implements any changes needed to improve program effectiveness. Additionally, she is in charge of all media relations, community organizers, volunteer efforts, fundraising, networking with businesses, community leaders and elected officials in the local community and throughout the state and country. She came to Proyecto Azteca after having an extensive career as a legal and political organizer and campaign staffer and campaign manager.

Bonilla is a Professor in the Department of Africana, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Hunter College and in the Ph.D. Program in Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is also Section Editor of Public Anthroplogies for the journal American Anthropologist and one of the directors of the Puerto Rico Syllabus Project. She teaches and writes about sovereignty, citizenship, and race across the Americas. She has written about anti-colonial movements in the French Caribbean, the role of digital protest in the Black Lives Matter movement, the implications of the Trump presidency and the politics of hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico.

Burt is a Senior Policy Analyst at Hope Policy Institute (HOPE). In this position, he uses quantitative and qualitative methods to understand and demonstrate the impact of social and economic policy across the Deep South. He is responsible for producing blog posts and policy briefs, providing credible analysis on HOPE’s programmatic issues, and raising awareness of the challenges and successes in the Deep South. His primary areas of research include community and economic development, consumer protection, small business relief, and financial inclusion. Notably, he has discussed pathways to increase Black homeownership in Mississippi to the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus, the importance of CDFIs in rural communities for NeighborWorks America, and how CDFIs are vital to increasing financial inclusion and small business relief to underserved markets with the Department of Treasury. His work serves to further HOPE’s goal of fostering opportunities that enhance the ability of vulnerable people and places to fully participate in the American economy.

George is the Director of Research and Information at the Housing Assistance Council. With more than 20 years of experience, he leads the organization’s research, data, and information efforts. George works at the intersection of housing, research, and data to help Americans who have quality and safe homes, understand and care about those who do not. His research encompasses a wide array of issues and topics related to demographics and housing markets.

Click here for more information or to register for the House Financial Services Committee hybrid hearing "Persistent Poverty in America: Addressing Chronic Disinvestment in Colonias, the Southern Black Belt, and the U.S. Territories."

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About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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