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Houston Housing Development Trapped Migrants in Endless “Foreclosure Mill”

Texas is currently suing a Houston-area housing developer for trapping migrants in a loop of foreclosures using fraudulent practices.

Colony Ridge is a sprawling 33,000-acre sub-development in Northeast Houston. The area is long-famous for poor infrastructure, bad drainage, and environmental racism. According to recent filings from Attorney General Ken Paxton, Colony Ridge has been using the land there to drain money out of migrants and Latino buyers in a convoluted scheme.

Here’s how it works. Migrants are targeted for sales with promises of cheap, ready-to-build land. Former employees of Colony Ridge were instructed to specifically look for buyers who could not speak English. The properties would not have access to water, sewage, and/or electricity, making it impossible for the people who bought the land to build homes or otherwise use the space. Stuck with useless property that generated no wealth or revenue, the lots would be foreclosed on and resold to a new buyer, repeating the cycle.

Paxton’s office claims the foreclosure rate in Colony Ridge is 50 times greater than the national average in 2023. A Houston Landing report showed that 45 percent of the properties sold are re-acquired by Colony Ridge.

Colony Ridge, who was also sued by the federal government over these practices in December, denies the allegations.

“They’re following the same line as the Department of Justice, there’s no creativity in Paxton’s words and we’re ready to defend this suit,” said developer John Harris in a statement.

Unfortunately, the state’s recent move to stop the alleged predatory practices of Colony Ridge has more to do with the fact that they are attracting migrants to the area. Paxton claims that Colony Ridge is encouraging illegal immigration. His statement says that the foreclosed-on migrants are now staying in the area, “distressing neighboring cities and school districts.” It’s clear that the state’s interest in the matter revolves primarily around the fact that undocumented migrants are impacting other neighborhoods.

The racial politics of the area have further muddled the issue. Harris’ brother Trey, a fellow developer, accused detractors of being angry that so many Latinos were moving to the area. He accused Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader of inflating crime statistic for fundraising purposes, and Colony Ridge sued Plum Grove Mayor Ann Penton-Walker for remarks about how Colony Ridge was depressing the area.

However, while they were making these accusations of racism, Colony Ridge was being sued on some of the practices that made up the state’s current legal complaint. Plum Grove filed suit over illegal dumping of wastewater, and The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has repeatedly cited them for water infractions.

If the allegations of Colony Ridge’s business practices are true, then they have been targeting marginalized populations with few resources to fight back. They’ve found a temporary champion in Paxton, but his motivations are clearly to prevent more migrants from settling in Texas, not that they have been defrauded and impoverished. Colony Ridge has accused state authorities and other settlements of racism, but also uses migrants’ marginalized status against them.

It’s a mess all around.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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