Volunteers repair century-old homes during annual Rehabarama


In the 25 years that Altagrazia Barragan lived in her 1920s home on Monterey Street, she only painted it once. But on Saturday, the chipped yellow house was transformed with blue paint.

The free service provided by volunteers from UTSA, San Antonio College, and local entrepreneurs was part of the annual San Antonio Rehabarama. The day-long service event hosted by the city’s Office of Historic Preservation brings together local contractors and other volunteers to perform repairs and maintenance on older homes for people who might otherwise not have the means of paying for the work.

For Barragan, who lives on Social Security and recently suffered heat stroke while working in her garden, the help is much appreciated and something she was looking forward to.

“I wish my heart could tell you how I feel,” said Barragan, 77. “It’s just wonderful that they are doing this for people like me, a single person. I’m just grateful to everyone who helps me.

Barragan’s house was one of seven houses on Monterey Street where work was done on Saturday. Painting was a big part of the effort on many homes, but replacing windows, window sills, and rotten porch wood was also on the to-do list. Most of the houses were built in the 1920s.

The first Rehabarama took place in 2017, according to Shanon Miller, director of the Office of Historic Preservation. Work completed on Saturday was scheduled for last year but has been delayed so far largely due to the pandemic.

In previous events, contractors, students and other volunteers had worked on around 20 homes, but Miller said the pandemic and the availability of contractors limited the number of people who could be reached this time around. She added that the city will organize another Rehabarama this spring in the region.

The annual event is meant to be of benefit to students, many of whom study architecture, and homeowners. Miller said Rehabarama has also helped the neighborhoods as the improvements have encouraged neighbors to start making changes to their homes as well.

“I think it’s really contagious when people start to reinvest and improve their neighborhoods, so that’s another thing we love to see,” Miller said.

The work done on each house is worth around $ 10,000, Miller said. More than $ 450,000 worth of work on more than 50 homes in Denver Heights, Highland Park and Roosevelt Park was completed during past Rehabaramas, according to the city.

Being able to be a part of Saturday’s event was a treat for District 5 council member Teri Castillo. Before being elected, Castillo spent some of her time at the Historic Westside Residents Association finding people who wanted to. have work done in their house in Rehabarama.

Castillo said the city should continue to support and build on Rehabarama, in part by investing in similar programs that already exist but which they believe are severely underfunded.

This weekend’s event was different from other volunteer opportunities that UTSA architecture student Javier Medina, 19, has done through groups like Habitat For Humanity.

“I like it a lot more because I can interact with the person who lives here, and the building has a lot more history,” Medina said. “I love that I can take him back to his glory days.”

Medina was one of some 50 student volunteers at Saturday’s event.

Each house had a separate outsourcing company that had volunteered to take charge of its facelift: A + I Contracting, AREA Real Estate, CVF Homes, Dean Howell Inc., Long House Builders, Sundt Construction, and Wendell Brown.

This was the third time AREA Real Estate has been a volunteer entrepreneur at Rehabarama, according to Luis Miguel Martinez, the company’s director of urban development. It is also doing a lot of historic renovations in the city center outside of Rehabarama, he said.

Being able to help improve old homes, which Martinez described as “gems,” is a wonderful experience, he said.

“Seeing these houses paint themselves and a little love is really good,” Martinez said. “It feels good to see neighborhoods – which are either booming or historic neighborhoods – transform. “

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