LBJ School Professor Awarded $100,000 Ford Foundation Grant for Sustainable Housing Research

Peter Ward, the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations and professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for research on sustainable housing policy and policy development for self-help in the Texas colonias, residential areas along the Texas-Mexico border that lack some basic living necessities such as electricity and running water.

The project will build upon data from 2000 and will offer a longitudinal perspective from two cross-sectional databases for 2000-10. Graduate students from the LBJ School of Public Affairs and other programs will assist Ward with research that will contribute to the development of housing and land market policy for low-income colonias in the Lower Valley counties as well as similar subdivisions in areas surrounding major cities such as Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

"This work grows out of my students' very successful spring 2010 semester class discussions and final report about sustainable housing application opportunities in low- and very-low income settlements in Texas colonias," said Ward. "Making sustainable housing practices a feature of all housing and urban rehab efforts, and not just those that affect middle-class America, is essential and forms an important part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The work that we are now doing for the Ford Foundation will directly inform emerging policy recommendations both nationally, as well as in self-help housing areas in Latin America and beyond."

The first portion of the project will be a densification re-study to provide data on how many formerly vacant lots were taken up since the original study in 1999. Ward's research in 2001-02 evaluated the impact of a program to provide clean property titles, or titles unencumbered by mortgages, to residents. The new study will provide a 10-year snapshot to help understand what improvements have been made since 2002 and how those improvements were financed. It will also seek information about housing market performance in light of the 2008-09 housing and financial crisis and to explore the potential for helping homeowners to incorporate sustainable, green technologies within self-help housing processes.

The final portion of the project will be to develop simple cost-benefit models that can be applied by communities and the households themselves to gauge the utility and benefits of green and other self-build housing improvement investments in their homes.

Ward and his students will conduct the study between September 2010 and August 2011.

More information and data on previous studies done by Ward and his students are online.