Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
A representative for San Antonio philanthropist Kym Rapier handed over a $1 million check to Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) on Friday. The money will be used to repair or replace an estimated 80 roofs for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, Treviño said.
The Under 1 Roof program, which the councilman started in 2015 as a $200,000 pilot program in his district, has expanded to a citywide initiative. Combined with funding from the City’s fiscal year 2019 budget and the San Antonio Housing Trust, Rapier’s donation brings the program’s total funding to $5.25 million. Her gift is the first private contribution to the program.
“My passion is helping people, and to hear that there are senior citizens losing their homes for repairable issues, such as a leaky roof, broke my heart. I could never allow some of the most vulnerable members in our communities, to spend what should be their golden years, potentially homeless and alone,” Rapier stated in an email. “Our senior citizens have built the rich history in our communities, that we enjoy today, and they should be some of our most treasured members.”
Homeowners eligible for the program include those who earn 80 percent of the area median income or less, seniors 65 years old and older, people with disabilities, and veterans. The home must be designated as a homestead with the Bexar Appraisal District, within city limits, and no larger than 1,500 square feet. The City also can work with applicants who have slightly larger homes, Treviño said. Click here to view qualifications and application.
Fixing a roof means “buying time” for homeowners, he said, and that can “change their lives forever so they can afford medication, so they could afford to take care of loved ones … and stabilize their neighborhoods.”
A leaking or damaged roof can lead to a host of other structural problems, and replacing roof can extend the lifespan of a home by 20 to 25 years, said Treviño, who is an architect. The energy-efficient materials that City contractors use on the roofs are designed to help residents save on electric bills.
The roof program is one of several that received a boost from the City’s annual budget as it implements new affordable housing policies. For the first time, housing was a key topic of budget discussions earlier this year.
The donation from the Blake, Kymberly and George Rapier Charitable Trust will go into the program’s fund, which is managed by the City, said Deputy City Manager Peter Zanoni.
In fiscal year 2016 the program completed 11 roofing projects; 32 in 2017; and 164 in 2018, Zanoni said. This year, the target is 400 homes, and the City has already received more than 300 applications.
As the program has grown, he said, the City has dedicated more resources to it and recently restructured how it implements projects to save money. The Housing and Neighborhood Services Department now oversees each project, Zanoni said.
“What we’ve done to save a little bit more and do more roofs is we’ve taken that aspect of the program in-house and then we’ve hired …. our own roofers through a competitive process,” he said, and the department now has a staff member completely dedicated to the Under 1 Roof program.
Another requirement for the one-time roof grant is that the homeowner must be up-to-date on their property taxes, Treviño said. “That’s a barrier for a lot of folks.”
Treviño is working with Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti on an exemption so the City can give grants to homeowners who participate in payment plans to get caught up on their taxes.
“We see senior citizens in our office every day,” Uresti said. “We’ve adopted a mission that we want to keep families in their homes.”
Treviño said he hopes the Under 1 Roof program can serve as a model for other cities in Texas and beyond. Bexar County has launched a similar $1 million program patterned after the City’s.
“We hope to grow this program nationwide,” Treviño said.