FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 4, 2009
AUSTIN, TX -- As Sen. Lucio spoke to attendees at the Keeping an Eye on Opportunities 2009 Joint Conference of the Texas Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies and the Association of Rural Communities in Texas, he reminded them that affordable housing is an essential element of comprehensive community development.
"Economic opportunities cannot be created without the availability of affordable housing," he explained. "When speaking of community development and affordable housing, it is imperative that all of Texas recognize the potential that our smaller communities can have on the economic well-being of our state."
Texas has the nation's largest rural population with more than 3.6 million rural residents. Sen. Lucio added, "Who knows what that number will be after the 2010 census, especially if critical reforms are implemented to build the capacity of these smaller communities."
As Chair of the International Relations and Trade Committee, Sen. Lucio said that the committee began wrestling with community development about six years ago. Some of the observations the committee made was that to some, especially in the private sector, community development meant deal closing grants to entice private businesses to open in different parts of the state.
Judges, mayors and other elected officials viewed community development as more than simply luring private companies to their town. It meant building from within so that the community could become self-sustaining. Still, to others, it meant investing in building resources and capacity so that communities would become self-sustaining without relying on state and federal government funds.
However, Sen. Lucio stressed that relying solely or heavily on the success of the private sector has setbacks. When manufacturing plants such as those established along the border during the 70s, 80s and 90s leave a community, it is very difficult to recover. So for some elected leaders, the private sector is a component but not the end-all for development.
"As a state, we need to incorporate the best practices from across this nation in terms of investing resources in our smaller communities in a comprehensive manner so that they gain the capacity to create their own opportunities," said Sen. Lucio, who has introduced legislation in the past that he continues to champion.
He challenged the group to invest in Texas' greatest resources--its people. "Helping private business is great, but we need to help our smaller communities, the people in those communities who include the workers, community leaders, elected officials, youth and those wanting to start a local home-grown business to achieve comprehensive community development. Adopt a resolve that yes, helping private business is a component of helping community development, but not the only component!"
Note: IRT Committee Director Dan Esparza handles these issues for Sen. Lucio.