The mission of Mutual Housing California is to develop and operate permanently affordable housing that builds strong and stable communities through resident participation and leadership development.
Incorporated in 1988, Mutual Housing was formed as a partnership of neighborhood residents, business representatives, housing advocates, and local government dedicated to improving housing opportunities for lower income families. The Mutual Housing founders’ major objective was to create a locally controlled nonprofit that would be a force for revitalizing low-income communities by strengthening neighborhood assets–both the housing and the neighborhood residents. By acquiring deteriorating multifamily structures, they envisioned that Mutual Housing could leverage private and public capital to renovate properties and turn them around into safe, affordable and well functioning residential communities. Similarly, by attracting investment to construct new housing on vacant in-fill lots, Mutual Housing would add to the local supply of safe, affordable housing and eliminate the hazards often associated with vacant lots.
As important, Mutual Housing was created to help stabilize neighborhoods by identifying and developing neighborhood leaders. By encouraging residents to participate in the maintenance and decision making in their communities, Mutual Housing would develop future local leaders — people who cared about the future of their neighborhoods and would organize others to increase the safety and well-being of other residents. These original founding objectives remain the same today.
Mutual Housing offers a permanent solution to the housing needs of low-income families. With residents taking a key role in the management and maintenance of their homes through site-specific resident councils, communities are created in which residents have a vested interest. These councils, working together with management, develop “house rules,” review financial reports, plan resident activities, interview and orient potential residents, mediate disputes and deal with infractions of rules. Councils provide leadership in the identification of resident and community needs and in raising resources to fill those needs. These include youth development programs, education and economic development resources, safety and security programs, and recreational facilities.
Mutual Housing owns and operates 1,009 homes in 18 multifamily communities. Some of our communities are designed and constructed by us on vacant in-fill lots; others are acquired and rehabilitated by Mutual Housing because they were deteriorated bank or HUD REOs and are a critical focus for neighborhood revitalization efforts. Our staff organizers provide leadership development support to resident leaders who are active in increasing the participation of other residents. The goal of Mutual Housing organizing is to encourage the involvement of all residents in operating the specific sites, working in the community, and providing leadership in the organization. This involvement enables residents to work together to more effectively identify solutions and resources which will strengthen communities and build safe, healthy neighborhoods.
In 1997, Mutual Housing initiated a new Financial Education program to help residents gain basic skills and to increase residents’ access to educational opportunities and employment. The initiative was developed in response to the 1996 federal welfare legislation. The changes in public assistance eligibility and reduced funding levels make it imperative for residents in mutual housing who receive public assistance from time to time –when layoffs occur, to supplement low-paid employment, or because of problems accessing jobs – to move into more permanent, higher-paying employment. Mutual Housing staff, residents and volunteers survey resident skills, backgrounds and training needs and utilize existing community resources to help residents become more economically independent. A key focus of this effort is to build the assets of residents – their skills and wealth – to help ensure long term self-sufficiency.