Low-income housing project aims to prevent flooding

The Brownsville CDC teamed up with BuildingCommunity Workshop to create and construct La Hacienda Casitas two years ago.

A low-income housing complex in Harlingen could be the future of housing in the Rio Grande Valley.

From the slanted rooftops to the small ponds scattered across the grassy areas on the property, every design element of the La Hacienda Casitas located off Expressway 83 and Lewis Lane has a purpose. The idea is to show developers and community wide politicians that affordable housing for families can be something beautiful, something that creates community and is environmentally sensitive, said Community Development Corporation of Brownsville Nick Mitchell-Bennett.

The Brownsville Community Development Corporation teamed up with BuildingCommunity Workshop, a nonprofit design center, to create and construct La Hacienda Casitas two years ago.

Hugo Coln of the BuildingCommunity Workshop has worked with families currently living in low-income housing in South Texas, including colonia residents.

One of the primary features that would address the needs of colonia residents in the Rio Grande Valley is finding a way to make the homes, and the area, more resistant to flooding, according to Coln. Drainage and flooding is one of the most complicated issues in the colonias and one of the most prioritized by the colonia residents, Coln said. You go to colonias where you see standing water for weeks, maybe months. If you don't attack that problem, the drainage, the flooding issue, then you cannot have better houses. The La Hacienda Casitas complex in Harlingen currently houses about 60 families, and it TMs also used as a testing ground for the features designed to lessen the impact of heavy rains.

The driveways are slanted so that water will collect in the middle of the road as opposed to gutters, said Mitchell-Bennett.

Additionally, bioswales are used throughout the grass area of the property where surface water can collect and be filtered. Each home is also elevated 18-inches to prevent water from getting inside. The Brownsville CDC and BuildingCommunity Workshop are in the process of pitching the design concept to local developers and politicians. We bring them through here so we can show them. It's kind of like a little laboratory, Mitchell-Bennett said.

A similar complex is expected to begin construction in Raymondville in August. There are also plans for a complex in Brownsville, according to Mitchell-Bennett.

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