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A Focus to Help Women Across the City

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The San Antonio City Council recently approved a resolution supporting women’s safety, health, and economic opportunity throughout the city.

“The issue of women’s equity has penetrated our national consciousness. More than ever, it is imperative for San Antonio’s City Council to demonstrate its support for the women of our community,” said District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran. “Women continue to make tremendous impacts across countless genres and industries, so it is time to take appropriate action to recognize and support these achievements.”

In the city, more than 51 percent of the total population of 1,144,646 are women. This resolution identifies three policy priorities to drive equitable outcomes for women through existing city services: eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault, promote positive women’s health outcomes, and address inequitable access to economic and business opportunities.

Eliminating Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:

Domestic violence disproportionally impacts women in our community. In recent years the number of domestic violence cases has increased and the City of San Antonio is committed to reducing domestic violence and sexual assault cases. In May 2018, a presentation showing a map of gaps where there is a high concentration of risk for domestic violence and low concentration of services. Work continues in this area to incorporate services provided by non-profit and other organizations and evaluate the impact of prevention and intervention services with the goal of reducing domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Positive Women’s Health Outcomes:

San Antonio’s teen birth rate and repeat teen births lag behind the national average. To address teen pregnancy, the city of San Antonio Health Department convenes the San Antonio Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative, a collective impact effort focused on reducing the teen pregnancy rate. San Antonio has made significant progress in this area by reducing the teen birth rate in Bexar County by 53 percent since 2006, but it still remains 49 percent higher than the national rate for ages 15 to 19. Maternal and child health progress has stalled in recent years in San Antonio. To address this concern, the Health Department has made this a key priority in its strategic plan.

Economic and Business Opportunities for Women:

On average, San Antonio women earn less money, own fewer businesses, and have less access to capital than their male counterparts. To address these challenges, the city has increased the number of successful female entrepreneurs and highly skilled females in the workforce through city programs and investments such as the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy Program, Launch SA and Project Quest. Through the SBEDA program alone, city contract dollars paid to local women-owned businesses have increased from 3 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2017.

Equity Program:

An equity impact assessment tool is being used to ensure city services, programs, and policies are equitable while considering the different needs and priorities of our community. As an example, the tool was used on city boards and commissions to enhance women and minority participation. In 2019, a train-the-trainer program will begin to normalize, organize, and operationalize equity across all city departments.

Boards and Commissions:

An Equity Impact Assessment, completed in October 2018, revealed that 39 percent of the current membership of the city’s boards and commissions is comprised of women while the san Antonio population is comprised of more than 51 percent women. The result of the assessment is an action plan designed to enhance meaningful community outreach and engagement, to increase diversity on city boards and commissions, and reduce implicit bias. The percentage of women in executive positions (Directors, Assistant Director, and Leadership Team) within the city organization has significantly increased from 26 percent in 2005 to 43 percent today. Programs have been developed to assist employees to executive roles, such as Supervisory Excellence Training and the Management Development Institute.

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Living Inside the Box

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By Lisa Harrison Rivas

Local entrepreneur aims to bring more shipping container homes to S.A.

It’s no secret that in San Antonio and much of the nation home prices are on the rise. Affordability is an issue in many communities, and this has led to thinking outside of the box when it comes to creating housing that is both affordable and appealing. The tiny house option is one way some are downsizing their living space as well as their debt. Shipping container homes are another unique dwelling option.

Though not a new concept, these homes are not common in the San Antonio area, but master designer Anya K. Bartay wants to change that. She has designed a house on the East Side using two shipping containers, and she also can incorporate several of the 40′ x 8′ containers to build a multi-level home that’s as big as a traditional house. The base price for a 2,000 square-foot home is around $220,000.

Her love of design and architecture began when she was a child. She spent part of her childhood in Panama and said that experience helped her appreciate the value of what we have in the United States.

She also credits her life in Panama with spurring the creation of Project N.O.A.H which stands for Net Zero Affordable Housing. Bartay stresses she is not designing government housing but housing that is affordable.

One of the homes she designed sits on the East Side and will become an Airbnb rental so that people can see what a shipping container home is like before they buy one. And soon, Bartay and her family will move into a container home she is building in Northeast San Antonio. It will be a model home she and her family will be living in for a year to provide data on how the house impacts the environment.

“We’re going to work with UTSA, CPS, Eco Central on monitoring all of the systems that are going to be implemented in that house. The solar, the rainwater collection to see how much is real, how much we use. To see how less of an impact we create with that house.”

Bartay recently discussed her plans to bring more shipping container homes to San Antonio.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: I’m working on a partnership with a factory that is already building shipping container homes to facilitate my need for the construction and to help them with their need for sales. We do have a subdivision that we have in mind. The owners of that property (on the Southside) said they will give us the land and we will create a neighborhood.

Q: Why would someone choose to buy a shipping container home?

A:  The first thing is safety. The container is resistant to tornados, hurricanes, torrential winds. Lots of construction won’t withstand those different disasters.

Q: How do people react to your project?

A: When I give them a proper understanding of what container homes could look like, their reaction is wonderful.

Q:  How did you become interested in building shipping container homes?

A: What I did was start doing searches and finding out what would be acceptable to present to people I worked with who needed a little bit of financial assistance getting their architectural needs met. So, shipping containers came up.

Q: Have you talked to city officials?

A:  I have presented this to Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert Jr., Senator Jose Menéndez, Neighborhood Housing Services of America and SAHA. And they’ve all agreed to using it.

Q: So how did you get training to build these homes?

A:  Once I had a nonprofit ask me about my designs, and then I got an investor. I looked up the details on YouTube and I put them into practice and started doing the work myself. I’ve been drawing it for years, so it’s just doing it now.

Q: Describe your style

A: I have 75 percent masonry on the outside and all the different means that everyone has for permanent housing. We are embedded into the foundation. And one of the biggest things is that we provide a thermal insulation coating and a rust-o proof coating for the container so that we avoid mold or any kind of disease.

Q: How much would a basic container home cost?

A: $110 a square foot (40-foot long containers are used). We have closing costs and money down assistance for an FHA or conventional loan.

Q: What type of foundation do the homes have?

A: We can do piers if you have elasticity in the soil. And you can do a regular slab on grade if you have nice solid bedrock.

Q: How long does it take to complete?

A: It should take no more than three months, but we’re going to be striving for one and a half. Most of the construction happens in one day. If it’s a custom, we’ll say three to six months.

Q: What are some of the things you can do to customize a container home?

A: Instead of sheetrock, you may want to use wood paneling, or put brick on the outside, or have an accent wall. You can do a lot of different variations of finishes.

Q: Do you help clients come up with a design?

A:  We try to help get the psychology behind the client’s needs and implement it into the design.


Lisa Harrison Rivas is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Don Johnson Realtors. If you are planning to buy or sell, feel free to contact her at 210-380-9006 or 
lhrivas@realsa.com

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Air Conditioning on the Way for Vulnerable Residents

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A needed step was taken today to improve the dignity and quality of life of some of San Antonio’s most vulnerable residents.

The City Council’s Comprehensive Plan Committee recently approved a funding recommendation to install air conditioning in over 2,500 public housing units on San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) properties that don’t have them.

“Some of these SAHA housing units were built in the 1930s,” said District 5 City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, chair of the Comprehensive Plan Committee. “Two thousand, five hundred families in our city including children and the elderly have lived through scorching summers without air conditioning for generations because their housing is old – that needs to change.”

The recommendation, which is pending the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s regulatory approval and will be sent to the full City Council for final approval, is to allocate $500,000 in CDBG funds that will be leveraged with private and non-profit funding to purchase and install air conditioning units at 22 SAHA facilities. The City’s CDBG funds will be matched by SAHA in the same amount of $500,000.

SAHA will work on a short deadline in order to install the air conditioners before the summer. If approved by Council, purchasing will begin in March and April with installation finished by the summer months.

According to San Antonio Housing Authority CEO David Nisivoccia, one-third of the residents of the public housing units that need air conditioning are elderly and disabled. Those units will be prioritized, followed by families with children.

State Representative Diego Bernal attended the Committee meeting to thank the members for their approval and commented that all concerned were racing against the summer to get the project going.

“This will help the most vulnerable in our City,” Councilwoman Gonzales said. “Public housing should not reflect a community’s poverty.”

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