Mutual Housing Newsletter

Mutual Interests, February 2017


Featured Articles


Green Leaders Grow Stronger

NeighborWorks VISTA Samantha SauterNeighborWorks® America VISTA Samantha Sauter is nearing the halfway mark of a year-long term serving with Mutual Housing California. In Samantha’s own words, “I am a VISTA because building strong, safe communities is necessary to an empowered generation.” Having been awarded two VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) slots last year, we intentionally developed our Green Leaders Program Associate position for a passionate volunteer like Samantha.

Mutual Housing initially began a Green Leaders program to educate residents about the many green elements of our construction and rehab projects that benefit their communities. Last year residents in our Davis communities were educated about the newly implemented City of Davis Organics Program. In previous years, resident Green Leaders at one community designed a green living guide in multiple languages. Another year, a set of resident Green Leaders were sent to a NeighborWorks® America Community Leadership Institute to help them develop and implement their vision for green cleaning workshops across our communities. Other residents have focused on raising worms for composting, reading utility bills with solar energy credits, and more.

This year, Samantha and the community organizers have been busy recruiting resident leaders in several Mutual Housing communities to plan and execute the next green education projects. Ninth graders at our Mutual Housing at Foothill Farms community are looking to inspire others. At a recent planning meeting, one resident youth member described her vision to the group: “kids and teens will be recycling instead of littering.” The group from Foothill is focusing on recycling education, following the recent green renovations within their community. The renovations allowed for the local waste department to add new recycling bins to the community. A resource sheet for other nearby recycling options will also be developed. Another Green Leader in training shares an eagerness to start seeing “adults put recyclable items into the new bins instead of the trash.”

Green leaders within Mutual Housing at Foothill Farms community

From left to right, NeighborWorks® Vista Samantha Sauter, and Mutual Housing resident youth green leaders, Alik (14), Pavel (15), Kateryna (15), and Lilia (15).

Each of the other groups Samantha is cultivating will help identify learning topics appropriate for their community, design outreach and training plans, and hold community meetings or events to share green information with their neighbors. Moore Village Mutual Housing Community in Yolo County is preparing for a community garden clean-up and spring cleaning event to include appliances and other home good recycling and disposal options and green cleaning products education. New Harmony Mutual Housing Community and Owendale Mutual Housing Community in Davis are planning an indoor air quality education event for Earth Day. Thanks to funding from Kelly Foundation, Enterprise Communities, and NeighborWorks® America, we are able to maintain this impactful program. Those interested in supporting our “Green Building Programs” may designate their support here.

Visit our Green Leaders page for more information.


Community Supported Gift Drive Brings Holiday Spirit to Mutual Housing Resident Members

2016 Gift Drive Supporters ListThe holidays are known to stretch the budgets of most households. The financial challenge and pressure to provide gifts and family celebrations that bring holiday joy is intensified for our 3,200 resident members, whose average household income is $23,500 for a family of three. To give the greater Sacramento, Davis, and Woodland communities an opportunity to support our households, we established a Holiday Gift Drive.

For a second year in a row, the community’s support exceeded expectations. The result was 321 beneficiary households and nearly 900 gifts given to boys and girls of all ages. The impact goes beyond numbers though, as the community support truly lifted the spirits of all our resident members across our 19 communities. “We generally only allow our children one gift each Christmas, just to teach them appreciation. So, when they received their gift this year they were extra appreciative,” says resident member Darcel, adding “More than anything, they had a lot of fun celebrating with their community and enjoying food, as everyone was getting to know each other better. Seeing smiles on their faces, you know they were having a good time.”

picture of mini-treat bags with hand written holiday greetings that had been prepared by the resident council for the whole communityIn addition to the individual donor support, we are grateful to our partners who hosted mini-drives of their own. Many of our resident councils also organized events throughout December to celebrate the holiday season with their neighbors. Most gifts were distributed as part of these community building celebrations. The unique opportunity to share food, cultural traditions, and gifts with one another provides an immeasurable boost for many families. One resident member from Owendale Mutual Housing Community assumed a leadership role. According to community organizer Kianna Williamson, the resident leader volunteered to make door-to-door deliveries of mini-treat bags with hand written holiday greetings that had been prepared by the resident council for the whole community. A few days after the deliveries, one resident told Kianna, “It was the only gift I received the whole year.”


Volunteer Board Member Spotlight: A Message from Vice President Cathy Creswell

Mutual Housing vice president Cathy CreswellWe are facing an unprecedented housing crisis in both California and Sacramento. In the recently released Statewide Housing Assessment, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)¹ reports that one third of the state’s renters pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing. While California has 12 percent of the nation’s population, 22 percent of all people experiencing homelessness reside here. While many people think of Sacramento as a relatively affordable place, those of us who call Sacramento home know differently. According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation², Sacramento needs 59,316 more affordable rental homes to meet the needs of our lowest income renters. Rents in Sacramento County have increased 13% since 2000, while median renter incomes declined 13%. A full 81% of all extremely low income households pay more than 50% of their income for rent, leaving little for food, medicine, transportation and other critical needs.

For more than 25 years Mutual Housing California has been building and preserving communities that help residents stabilize their lives and that serve as a foundation for strengthening families and neighborhoods. I was aware of the great work of Mutual Housing from my years working for California Department of Housing and Community Development. From that vantage point, I saw Mutual Housing’s statewide leadership in both housing policy and development. California is home to the nation’s best nonprofit housing development organizations, and I have had the opportunity to work with many of them. But I was always drawn to Mutual Housing’s unique focus on resident engagement and empowerment, and in 2014 jumped at the opportunity to join the Board of this amazing organization.

As I have served over the last two years, my commitment to Mutual Housing California has only deepened. I joined the Mutual Housing Board of Directors because of their history and record of achievement, I am privileged to continue serving because of my admiration for the leadership and commitment of my fellow board members and for the following:

• The skill, expertise and dedication of the staff at all levels. Everyone who works at Mutual Housing, from maintenance staff, community organizers, to the development team, is committed to the mission and carries out their duties in a manner that honors that mission.

• Rachel Iskow. Mutual Housing’s excellence starts at the top and Rachel has exemplified the best in organizational and community leadership. Her dedication to residents, staff, and the organization has improved thousands of our neighbors’ lives and brought national recognition to Mutual Housing’s communities. For nearly 23 years, Rachel has brought that same dedication to her local and statewide advocacy for vulnerable populations and families of modest means. I continue to be inspired by her and grateful her legacy leaves Mutual Housing well poised for the future.

• Mutual Housing’s continuing and expanding commitment to resident empowerment and leadership. Residents are encouraged and supported in participating in the decision making of their communities through resident councils and other forums. Mutual Housing helps residents identify issues in their lives and communities and supports them in developing the skills and confidence to address them. Resident leaders are encouraged and supported in advocating for themselves, their families and their communities. When Residents United Network (a one of-a-kind statewide organization of resident of affordable communities) was established in 2014 to advocate at the state and federal level, Mutual Housing residents and community organizers were actively engaged to make sure it happened.

• Mutual Housing’s commitment to continuous improvement and innovation. Not satisfied with resting on its more than 25 years of success, Mutual Housing California continues to lead in green building; bringing the region’s first LBGT welcoming senior development forward; and exploring new venues to support resident’s efforts to gain financial stability and empowerment. Mutual Housing at Spring Lake was the nation’s first certified zero-net energy rental community and Mutual Housing is already looking to improve with plans for a 39-unit second phase designed to achieve 105% positive-net energy with storing at least 5% of energy generated off the grid.

• Mutual Housing’s responsiveness to an ever changing and challenging environment. Mutual Housing is always looking for new ways to support residents, identify new resources, and effectively respond to changing circumstances in support of the people and communities it serves. As resources for developing new communities has been shut off, Mutual Housing California has taken a leadership role in identifying new funding opportunities.

• The Residents. Mutual Housing residents work together to advocate for themselves, their families and their neighborhoods. Their engagement makes their communities and neighborhoods better, healthier places. I have been privileged to get to know and work with resident board members who are leaders in their communities and who also dedicate their time and skills to supporting the important work of Mutual Housing California. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from them.

Everyone in our community deserves a safe, affordable place to call home. The residents, staff and board of Mutual Housing California are dedicated to ensuring that goal becomes a reality, and I am proud to serve with them.


Mutual Housing at River Garden Goes Green!

resident member shows kitchen in renovated home

Resident Member Charles explains, “I love the new floors because they are easy to maintain. I also am less worried that I am going to slip on them. The cabinets are great and they match the floors and my kitchen. The new carpet is thicker and softer than the old carpeting too!”

Mutual Housing at River Garden, home to nearly 600 resident members, built in the 70’s and upgraded by Mutual Housing in the 90’s, was showing signs of wear and tear and due for an array of upgrades and renovations. This presented Mutual Housing with an opportunity to implement many of our green building best practices. Our staff, with resident input, crafted a comprehensive renovation plan. After 14 months of work, green renovations have been completed at the North Sacramento community, which included new kitchens, appliances, flooring, hot water heaters, drought-tolerant landscaping, as well as other improvements.

The coordinated efforts between Mutual Housing Management, asset manager Bryan Dove, and onsite staff are the latest example of how Mutual Housing California improves housing opportunities for lower income families. Mutual Housing also protects the health of our region’s most vulnerable populations, including the children and the elderly, through its focus on healthy, green housing. Mutual Housing is a learning organization and is constantly applying lessons learned. Being keenly aware of how poor air quality affects the health of our households, one of the key upgrades was the replacement of flooring in each home. One of most common hazards associated with poor air quality is asthma. According to HUD³, “More than 7 million children in the United States have asthma, the effects of which make it hard to breathe. Another 40 to 50 million people have allergies.” With this in mind, previous vinyl composition tile flooring (VCT) was replaced with laminate plank flooring which allows for green maintenance. Replacing carpet and reducing the need for harsh cleaning products improves the air quality of the homes. “The residents love the new flooring,” says assistant property manager Galyna Vasyltsyun.

“The green renovations at Mutual Housing at River Garden delivered modern amenities to our residents, including new kitchens and countertops, play structures and drought tolerant landscaping, says asset manager Bryan Dove. “The energy efficient appliances, humidistat exhaust fans, and new hot water heaters will provide greater indoor comfort and help lower resident utility bills.”

renovated community room of Mutual Housing at River Garden

“We installed Evolve shower valves and LED lights as part of the renovation,” says maintenance technician Shannon Phillips. He adds, “By pausing water flow once the water temperature is ready for showering, the valves will further reduce water consumption and the LED lights will reduce electricity consumption, which will increase affordability to our resident members and the property.” We were fortunate to work with longstanding construction and design partners who understand and support our mission to develop, operate and advocate for sustainable housing that builds strong communities through resident participation and leadership development. It was a pleasure having Erik Read of Rod Read & Sons as our contractor for the green renovations. Once again providing a new beautiful drought tolerant landscape design was Michael Engle with Cunningham Engineering. And a special thanks to Trish Houlihan with Kuchman Architects PC for designing the interior the Mutual Housing at River Garden community room.


Tragedy and Inspiration for Mutual Housing Family

late community organizer Pa Phang VangWe are devastated to report that a dear Mutual Housing friend, Pa Phang Vang, and her wonderful husband Chu Vang were the victims of an auto accident in Klamath Falls, Oregon last month. This is a devastating loss to our Mutual Housing family.

Pa became a resident of Mutual Housing on the Greenway soon after we purchased and renovated the property the first time back in 1995. She was so outgoing and full of integrity that our Director of Community Organizing at the time, Karl Hilgert, recruited her to become a NeighborWorks Corps member, and later, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. She was loved and respected by residents of all backgrounds and when her VISTA service ended, we hired her on as a Community Organizer. She remained in that position for many years. Pa moved out of our Mutual Housing property after she purchased a home and business, having learned how to leverage her assets by taking our financial education classes. She remained as an organizer until she devoted herself full time to her business.

In her 20 year association with our organization, Pa went from being an active Mutual Housing resident to a beloved community organizer and after many years on our staff team, she and Chu became community supporters and volunteers. She built relationships with people of all backgrounds and inspired so many of us to be active in our communities. She was skilled at bringing out leadership qualities and mentoring leadership skills. She will forever be woven into the fabric of our organization through the people she touched and the foundations of love and respect she helped build. Our hearts are with Pa’s family–children of mutual housing who loved their mother fiercely and her, them.


¹California Department of Housing and Community Development. January 2017. “California’s Housing Future: Challenges and Opportunities (Public Draft)”’s-Housing-Future-Full-Public-Draft.pdf

²California Housing Partnership Corporation. May 2016. “Confronting Sacramento County’s Rent and Poverty Crisis: A Call for Reinvestment in Affordable Homes.”

³HUD. August 23, 2016. “Everyone Deserves a Safe and Healthy Home.”

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