​Alejandra Reyes​

Zacatecas, Mexico

Doctoral degree pursuing:
Ph.D. in Community and Regional Planning

The University of Texas at Austin  

Tell us about your research and what attracted you to this area.

My main research focus and interest is on affordable housing policy and production. Most of my own research has also been based geographically in Mexico, although scarcity of affordable housing is increasingly a global issue. The lack of adequate and affordable housing has led to sprawling and (environmentally and socioeconomically) unsustainable development patterns all around the world. Thus, I believe that increasing housing access needs to be a priority of governments at the local, state, and national levels.

Specifically during my Ph.D., I have studied a paradoxical housing condition in Mexico, the coexistence of high rates of vacancy and shortages in some regions. My two case studies are Tijuana, Baja California and Huehuetoca, Estado de México (part of Mexico City’s metropolitan region). Both contexts have high housing vacancies and shortages, and received significant funds for new housing construction in the 2000s. Yet, they also have very different institutional capacities at the local and metropolitan levels, which made their comparison particularly useful.

My main research question can be summarized as follows: What has generated the high rates of vacancy and poor conditions in housing prevalent under Mexico’s current housing finance and development model? To answer this broad question, it has been particularly important for me to study (through mixed research methods) housing finance policy at the federal level, as well as the influence of state and local governments – and the private sector – in its recent implementation. By doing so, my research sheds light on many of the significant socioeconomic and spatial implications of recent policies and development patterns.

Why did you decide to study at UT Austin?

UT Austin has some of the most renowned scholars in my field, including Peter M. Ward and Elizabeth J. Mueller, both important mentors of mine. Similarly, it has a very strong Latin-American program that has helped me remain connected to the academic community back home. Finally, I am very appreciative of the financial support that the UT system gives to Mexican students, and of the academic ties that we have been able to strengthen between Texas and Mexico over my years as a graduate student at UT. 

Who is your advisor and how has he/she impacted you?

My main advisor is Elizabeth Mueller. We share a passion and commitment to community development and housing issues that has nurtured our work and collaborations over the years. She has been a very important role model for me given her public engagement and academic rigor, among other important traits. 

How do you hope your research will impact the binational relationship between the U.S. and Mexico in the future?

I have always carried out research that has not only academic or theoretical, but also policy and societal implications. Furthermore, although much of my own research has been about Mexican housing issues and policies, I have also collaborated on research on the same topics in Texas. Peter M. Ward’s research on Texas colonias and informal subdivisions, for example, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of the residents and home buyers in these settlements, among other notable findings. from early on, while earning my master's degree here at UT Austin, I was involved in research projects that highlighted the importance of incorporating affordable housing provisions in planning processes and public investment strategies (e.g. Central Texas Student Planning Award for Creating Inclusive Corridors: Austin’s Airport Boulevard). I applaud the ConTex initiative to support emerging scholars like myself who are studying topics that are relevant in both sides of the border.

What advice would you give other Mexican students who may be considering studying in Texas?

In my experience, Austin has been a great place to live. Given the very significant latinx and immigrant community Texas, I have also remained connected to my roots and collaborate with various organizations (such as Proyecto de Defensa Laboral, Foundation Communities and Texas Here to Stay) on issues that are very important to me.