Bloomberg looks at recent development of new subdivisions that some are calling “instant slums.” The affordable lots may have very basic water and sewer service, but other than that its pretty much a free for all. Red is guessing that deed restrictions don’t come into the picture. The opportunity to own a small piece of land for a reasonable price is alluring, but nearby towns are concerned about the impact on their communities.
Built on newly cleared timberland, the Colony Ridge development in Plum Grove, which is part of Liberty County, is the largest of the new colonias, which usually cover fewer than 300 lots. People already live there in trailers or under tarps tossed over peeled pine logs or tool sheds. “I haven’t seen anything at this scale anyplace else,” says John Henneberger, an expert in housing laws at Texas Housers, an Austin-based nonprofit that’s tracked new colonias outside Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.
Plum Grove’s 600 longtime residents, almost all white, oppose Colony Ridge’s building plans. They fear their new neighbors—who could number as many as 30,000 once all the lots are sold—will overwhelm local schools and public services, as well as bring crime into the area. “They’re playing their mariachi music so loud your house is thumping at two in the morning,” says Plum Grove city councilwoman Lee Ann Penton-Walker, who is proposing a municipal tax to pay for a police force to patrol the development.