Goodlife People: A Q+A with Renato Salazar from New Story
Next up, in our #GoodlifePeople Series, we are featuring Renato Salazar of New Story. New Story pioneers solutions to combat global homelessness through the development of scalable, safe, housing communities. Learn more about him and this project in the full Q+A below.
PS… Contact us if you, or someone you know, would like to participate in this series! Enjoy.
1. What is your role with New Story and how did you join the team?
I am Renato Salazar and I am the Innovation Project Manager for New Story. A friend of mine originally introduced me to guys from the team, because they needed video footage from El Zonte; So that’s how I got to know them. One thing led to another… it all started as a friendship, then on LinkedIn I saw an opportunity that I decided to apply for… I got interviewed and that’s how I joined.
2. Tell us about the project in general and then specifically, what is happening in El Zonte? What is the timeline?
New Story is a a nonprofit organization that builds homes for low-income families and we are approaching the construction market with ways for families to unlock financial products. So, we are not only working on building new homes; but also expanding homes and working with families so they can own the land. So, those are the three kind of services or products that we have. We’re not just building communities, we are bringing more access to low income families; and in El Zonte specifically, we are building a 122 home community that we call ‘Lomas de El Zonte’.
As for the timeline, we are hoping to get the community ready by March of next year because right now it’s rainy season and it has caused us to slow down on building, but we are getting there.
3. What values/principals do you think the project, and its processes, are promoting? For example, financial education, etc? And why are these important to the local community?
First of all, we are providing ownership by giving access to families to get the title of the land and their homes. These families who have been selected, they don’t own any place, they don’t own a house, they don’t own land. They have to go through a process of interviews and provide documentation that certifies that they don’t have anything, any land or any house before they are selected.
We also focus on financial inclusion and digital transformation. We are bringing them to this new project using Bitcoin, so we are teaching them how to create and use an email account, how to use a Bitcoin wallet, how they can use Bitcoin for bill payments so that they’re not just paying for their homes, but also, they are paying for their bills, which is a great thing for them; and now we are working together with Google and we are going to provide a monthly balance for them with details like, how much you have paid and how much you own, or if you’re behind payments a couple of months. They are going to receive some alerts, so it’s kind of what the regular service will provide.
And also, we’re providing financial education. You know, how to create a budget for your family, how to, how to create a budget for paying your house, and so on.
This is important to the local community, because when they pay for their house, they can see a regular payment behavior, and they can say “hey, now I can pay for this, now can I save money for this other stuff.”
So, on the financial side, they open their minds, and now they can buy a motorcycle, buy a car or invest in a small business like a ‘tiendita’ (convenience store) or pupuseria… They see opportunities. It also helps their kids because usually they are doing homework on a dirt soil, they get a stomach or a breathing disease and with this project, they’re receiving better, and safer, health and development opportunities.
4. How is BTC involved?
Every family selected by New Story for this project has to pay a micro mortgage. In El Zonte, they are using Bitcoin to make those payments and this is financial inclusion and also digital transformation.
5. How are the families chosen and what involvement do they have throughout the building process?
We did a call for an open invite for the whole community and they went through a process of interviews. So, you know, everyone was selected by going through the same interviews and the information they have to provide. It was basically like building relationship through a very trustable conversation with them; because they will have to say “I make money doing this, doing that, and my responsibilities are these and that; and, then at the end of the day, I have this which is enough for a monthly payment.” So that’s how we’ve been choosing the families.
We want them to be part of the building process, not just because they come and build their house, but they get to know the materials, where is the pipe going, where the wires are going, and also this helps to build community. Now, they are going to know their neighbor, because probably they don’t know their neighbors. They also get to build the house of others, and others are helping them to build theirs… We are literally building community and helping our neighbors.
6. Why is a project like this important in communities like El Zonte?
El Zonte, as you know, is in the eye of the world right now, and we want to provide safe shelter and a solid house for local families. That’s our main goal as New Story. We don’t want new development to leave our local people homeless… we want to give them safe shelter. So that’s why it’s important, especially in El Zonte.
7. How can people help/contribute?
People can go to New Story’s website and they can be ambassadors. They can promote our projects and they can help us with donation or by making a partnership with us, and invest in New Story.
If you invest, you will receive a profit out of the investment you are doing. For example, “I will provide $10K for you guys so you can develop a tool that will help this specific communities for their down payments” and stuff like that; and they’re going to make profit out of it. Not a great amount of profit as a commercial business, but more like a non-profit environment so don’t expect like huge profit from it, but you’re going to receive some money back.
So, these are the different ways of providing support to New Story.
8. Can big brands/companies get involved? If so, how can they do it? (from a corporate social responsibility point of view)
Of course they can. As I mentioned before, we can develop more strategies or partnerships to develop more products, financial products, or a better construction process, or better ways of structuring payments for families.
9. Where else is New Story building in El Salvador?
We have projects in San Vicente, we have projects in Nuevo Cuscatlán, we have projects in Ichamichen, we just finished Juayua, we have projects in Ahuachapán, actually we have two projects in Ahuachapán. And probably, we’re going to have a couple new projects soon… We’re going to keep working, that’s what I’m trying to say.