Ford Foundation Housing Study

This research project was directed by LBJ School Professor Peter M. Ward and was funded by a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct sustainable housing policy research and policy development for self-help in Texas colonias and other similar communities. It builds upon research and databases created in 2000 and will offer a longitudinal perspective from two cross-sectional databases for 2000-2010 (see “Title Regularization Study 2001-2” in this Texas Housing Studies area).

The Ford Foundation Reports comprises three main elements. Report # 1 is a changing lot occupancy re-study that provides benchmark data on the take-up occupancy of formerly vacant lots in existing colonias and settlements since the original survey undertaken as an LBJ Policy Research Project. Report # 2 is restudy of sustainable housing improvements in several colonias outside Rio Grande City (Starr County) where in 2001-2 Dr. Ward led a UT-Texas/A&M team to evaluate the impact of a program to provide clean property titles to residents (Title Regularization Study…”. It offers a detailed “snapshot” (ten years later) to understand: the extent and nature of improvements that have been made since title regularization; how improvements were financed & housing market performance in light of the 2008-9 housing and financial crisis; and it explores the potential for help home owner to incorporate more sustainable and “green” technologies and practices.

The study was conducted by Dr. Ward and a graduate student team between September 2010 and December 2011, and was concluded in June 2012. Dr Ward’’s Introduction and Overview of the Research Project: “Housing Sustainability, Self-help and Upgrading in Texas Colonias: A Longitudinal Perspective — 2002 plus 10” offers an overview of the study and the main findings that is designed to be read as a preliminary to entering each individual report. Read here.

This constitutes Report # 1 (38 pages) and begins with a general guide to our methodology for tracking lot occupancy changes over time. This is then used to analyze occupancy changes in 22 Texas subdivisions over the past decade (2000-2010). Principal findings and policy implications follow.

We have also developed a number of tools to assist any researchers interested in using this methodology to conduct their own analysis. 

The “Data Collection and Analysis Guide” provides detailed instructions – with images –for applying the method. Researchers may want to reference this guide while reading the methodology section of the report and vice versa:

The “Lot Occupation Study Workbook” contains the study database (EXCEL sheet # 1) and a number of additional calculations that inform our report. The study workbook is also intended to serve as an example of a populated database for future researchers to consult:

The “Master Template Workbook” provides an adjusted framework – with embedded formulae – that future researchers can use to enter and analyze their own data.

The survey questionnaires are made available as word documents in order that they may be adapted for use by researchers elsewhere. The “Flexible Survey” instruments are broken up into segments that also contain sections not used in our home improvement survey – such as sections on health, education, civic activity, transportation needs and use, etc. These add-on sections were requested by NGOs and other community groups so that they might create their own baseline surveys on issues that are of particular concern and interest to them.


The 02-11 database contains data on 115 households that participated in both the 2002 and 2011 studies. Primarily, these data are used throughout the report to assess the impact of the provision of title on the investment and borrowing practices colonia residents.

The 11 database contains data on all 201 households that participated in the 2011 study. These data provide a detailed portrait of socio-economic and physical conditions in the study colonias.

  1. SPSS version of the combined 02-11 database with identifiers removed
  2. Stata version of the combined 02-11 database with identifiers removed
  3. Excel version of the combined 02-11 database with identifiers removed
  4. SPSS version of the 2011 database with identifiers removed
  5. Excel version of the 2011 database with identifiers removed
  6. Excel coding guide for the 02-01 database
  7. Excel coding guide for the 11 database

Ford Foundation Report #2: Documenting a Decade of Change in Starr County Colonias: Survey Design and Results. 

The Cost-Benefit Home Intervention Tool or C-BHIT is a web-based application developed under a 2010 Ford Foundation Metropolitan Areas grant extended to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. It targets persons and organizations working with low-income communities to help them explore and quantify a range of costs and savings that may accrue from home rehabilitation and self-help housing and weatherization initiatives, as well as social options that are typically ignored under strict economic analysis. The C-BHIT identifies interventions appropriate for low-income households, taking into account initial cost outlays, economic and social returns, labor and human capital involved in the installation or addition, ease of operation, and opportunities for self-help or do-it-yourself (DIY) implementation. Interventions fall under four broad categories: 1) weatherization and microclimate; 2) water and wastewater; 3) recycling and solid waste; and 4) renewable energy (click here for the list of the interventions).

Designed as an interactive tool, users navigate the C-BHIT in easy-to-follow steps by clicking buttons and entering data when invited to do so (see the tutorial below) . There are two types of help information built in that provide guidance in using the tool: 1) a permanent information box that displays instructions when a main option is selected; and 2) a help button that enables pop-up descriptions when a user hovers the cursor over an intervention. After selecting home interventions, users are allowed to review and edit cost and utility (electricity, gas and water) savings information and to enter utility bill and seasonal usage information. In addition, users have the option of including social income and health benefits. At any time in, users are able to return to previous steps to make changes, including selecting additional interventions, without losing any information previously entered.

The C-BHIT processes the customized selections and provides a cost-benefit summary analysis alongside a link that generates a downloadable spreadsheet (in comma separated value or csv format) that shows the costs and savings (benefits) from the selected home improvements. It is recommended that the user save the file so as not to lose any of the work. Once a cost-benefit analysis has been generated, users can start over to begin a separate analysis.

The household utility data that the model uses provides personalized and more accurate estimated savings for the household. By-passing the input of utility information is allowed, thus omitting the benefit analysis, but individual and aggregate costs of the selected home interventions are nonetheless calculated for those who cannot readily access their utility bills or who are pressed for time and wish only to generate cost information. Individuals must have a Firefox, Opera, Sea Monkey, Google Chrome, or Safari browser to use the C-BHIT. Currently, the best results are provided by Firefox browsers version 11 or higher.

Prior to pulling up the Model itself first time users are encouraged to view the Tutorial for general orientation about how to create your own home improvement specs and cost benefit analysis.

Go to C-BHIT Model