###Background / Problem
San Antonio is 296 years old. It is home to many old neighborhoods in various states of revitalization. The homes and businesses in these neighborhoods face significant structural and visual problems, like crumbling foundations, leaking roofs and busted floors.
Difficulty accessing grants and incentives
There are many financial incentives available to property owners to improve their homes and offices/retail spaces. These grants have complex eligibility rules and are administered by a number of different organizations. It’s an opaque process that frustrates users.
Confusing permit and regulation system
The city has set down a number of regulations intended to improve the aesthetic of neighborhoods and ensure home improvements are done safely. These rules are poorly explained and almost impossible to navigate without expert help.
We discovered our problem through explorations of the cities’ most challenged neighborhoods and discussions with San Antonio residents who face significant hurdles in improving the quality of their homes.
Community partners, including SA2020, the Westside Development Corporation and others stressed the deep strain put on neighborhoods by crumbling homes. We discovered that structural issues like holes in walls and slipping foundations prevented homeowners from heating their homes in the winter and cooling them in the summer.
Homeowners told us of the difficulty they had finding the right contractors and navigating the rules to perform these projects. Many don’t have access to the cash to complete all the repairs required on their homes, and leave much-needed repairs for another time.
Our project will make it easy to apply for permits, find grants, and pick the right contractors to work on home repair projects. We believe these three elements are the key to encouraging people to take the first step toward improving their homes.
In the long term, we’d like to see our tool used to revitalize neighborhoods and make residents proud of the place they live.
We’re currently equipped to help homeowners get a few basic projects started by connecting them with the permits they need for the project. We’ve reformatted the current experience, which requires users to sort through cryptically-named PDF applications that arbitrarily group together different repairs. Our tool starts with the project – users can select the repairs they want to complete, like adding a room – and moves forward from there.
We are exploring a few possible next steps, including integrating our app with the city’s backend to allow users to send their permit application with the click of a button, and to easily track its status online. We’re also investigating how to catalogue available grants and create a standard application process for them.
Our key metric to test our app against is improving the number of home repair permits applied for in the core downtown area. This area is home to challenged neighborhoods, some in states of deep disrepair.
This metric was set forth by SA2020 as part of their Neighborhoods cause area, which is focused on improving the housing stock in San Antonio’s urban core and making the whole city a great place to live.