Mutual Housing Newsletter

Mutual Interests, December 2016


Featured Articles


Many Points of Pride: 2016 reviewed

Lavender Courtyard by Mutual Housing rendering

Architect’s rendering of Lavender Courtyard by Mutual Housing.

As the year comes to an end and we reflect on our work, we are proud of the ways that Mutual Housing has positively impacted the most vulnerable in our communities. We now own and operate 19 affordable housing communities located in Sacramento, Davis, and Woodland. These communities are providing safe, sustainable homes for a diverse population of more than 3,200 resident members. Each of these members is invited to participate in their housing community in extraordinary ways such as voting for and serving on our board of directors, resident impact committee, and resident councils. Along with ensuring access to experiential leadership opportunities our team of community organizers works with each of our resident members to tailor their Mutual Housing experience to fit their own unique gifts and goals. In addition to implementing onsite activities and workshops that intentionally build up the physical, academic, and financial health of our resident members, our organizers empower each community to create, plan, and execute their own community building events. Here are some of our 2016 accomplishments:

• Renovated for energy efficiency and health 98 homes in Sacramento County: Mutual Housing at Foothill Farms.
• Began predevelopment of the nation’s first Positive Net Energy rental housing community: Mutual Housing at Spring Lake in Woodland.
• Completed green renovation plans for 45 homes in Davis: Owendale Mutual Housing Community.
• Secured key funding for the Central Valley’s first LGBT-welcoming affordable senior housing community, Lavender Courtyard by Mutual Housing in Sacramento.
• Kicked off our innovative Culture of College initiative to support families as they work throughout their children’s lives to make college accessible.
• We piloted a College Ambassadors program in which residents themselves are equipped to promote college within Mutual Housing communities.
• Promoted physical health, financial health, creativity, and academic support through activities and workshops by our community organizers, volunteers and partner organizations.
• We served 7,715 summer lunches combined with engaging activities for children.

From all of us at Mutual Housing California and Mutual Housing Management, we thank you for your support of our mission to develop, operate and advocate for sustainable housing that builds strong communities through resident participation and leadership development. It is you, our supporters, that empower and inform our work. Thank you for doing all you can to ensure our success.


A Morning of Inspiration

We held our annual Building Up Breakfast on November 15th and we extend heartfelt thanks to all those that attended and helped to make it another memorable morning. This annual event serves as an opportunity to hear our resident voices, gain an understanding of the vision ahead, and share fellowship with others that believe we all need to act on our best intentions to create change.

A compelling new video was featured and you can view it here:

The Building Up Breakfast was made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors, each one a hero for believing in our mission and fueling our work:

Mutual Housing California 2016 Building Up Breakfast Sponsors list


Community Building: Resident-planned holiday events

Mutual Housing resident member with gift at holiday partyMutual Housing California’s Community Organizers enhance resident stability by building community, engaging residents and helping residents feel empowered to support each other and collectively to address their unique challenges. As with any community, it can be challenging finding opportunities to build supportive relationships. One way we address this is to empower our resident members with recreational funding each year. The resident councils at each of our 19 communities receive an allocation of rental revenue and direct how the funds are spent. This allows them creative freedom to host their own community building events. Resident control helps to ensure that planned events are culturally relevant to our diverse communities. As the holiday season approaches, most of our communities host holiday events, from Thanksgiving through December. The events offer a unique opportunity to bond, enjoy a meal, as well as fight the holiday blues for those apart from family and those living alone, including the elderly and disabled. Resident member, Jennifer Higley-Chapman adds, “My family and I enjoy all of the opportunities this time of year to catch up with neighbors and share the festive environment in our community room. This time of year can be a financial challenge, so I appreciate hearing from my community organizer about available programs during this season that offer a little extra help.” Such spirit of collaboration and celebration inspires and renews commitments by resident members to lead the way to achieving our mission.


Looking back…Moving forward: Our CEO reviews 2016 and looks ahead

Mutual Housing CEO Rachel IskowIf you asked me to characterize the year 2016 for Mutual Housing in one word, I would tell you: “Innovation!” If you were generous and allowed me three words, I’d say, “Innovation through Partnerships.”

If you have been following our work this year, I’m sure you agree. While Mutual Housing has always been a learning organization and places a high value on innovation, this year we even astonished ourselves. Through the support of some amazing public and private partners, we cut ahead to the leading edge on housing and program design. Of course, as usual, dedicated residents of Mutual Housing were leaders in moving our mission forward to new heights.

Let’s start our review with an innovative resident initiative. Residents from three mutual housing communities stepped up to become leaders in our innovative Culture of College initiative. These residents, older youth and adults, were trained as College Ambassadors. The program follows the Health Promotors model (promotoras) in which people are trained to advocate and educate amongst their peers. In this case, the resident College Ambassadors will bring college information to their communities and encourage college preparedness. They will use a variety of inspiring strategies to infuse the idea amongst resident parents and students that college is accessible, desirable, and with available support, affordable.

Now, on to innovation in sustainable housing! You must know already from the multitude of press we have gotten, that our Mutual Housing at Spring Lake in the town of Woodland is the first rental housing in the nation to receive Zero Net Energy certification. Think that was innovative? This year, we got approved for funding from the US Department of Agriculture to build a second phase of this wonderful community for agricultural workers and their families, and this one is expected to be the first rental housing in the nation to be certified as POSITIVE Net Energy. You read correctly. This housing will be the first rental housing in the nation to produce MORE energy than is consumed at the property. That is an innovative way for Mutual Housing to contribute to sustainability of our planet.

Innovations in housing special populations is another area of breakthrough in 2016. Three more formerly homeless residents of our supportive housing community found jobs recently. These were chronically unemployed, chronically homeless residents who have access to a plethora of on-site services and empathetic social workers. We are so proud of their commitment to living positive, productive lives. Continuing with our innovation in housing populations with special challenges to securing and maintaining housing, we received two thirds of the funding commitments we need to fully build out the Central Valley’s first LGBT friendly senior housing. We will be developing this community on land we own in downtown Sacramento on the north end of 16th Street. City Council member Steve Hansen says this innovative housing development will be the catalyst needed to spur more development on this neglected thoroughfare.

What do we have to look forward to in 2017? Most importantly, continuing to house safely and affordably over 3,200 hard working individuals and provide them easy access to support, engaging community building experiences, and leadership programs. We plan to raise the last third of the funding needed to build out our LGBT friendly senior housing community. We will finish the plans for the first Net Positive Energy rental housing community. We will be increasing the number of homes that receive free wireless internet access and technology training. Thanks to NeighborWorks America, we have a wonderful community oriented VISTA volunteer with expertise in environmental sustainability who will be developing “green leadership.” That is, she will be encouraging residents who have an interest in sustainability issues to go deeper, become experts in one topic, and train their fellow residents. We have another VISTA volunteer who is working to equip residents with the tools they need to become masters of their finances. In addition to financial capability sessions, we will be bringing an innovative “rent reporting” program to Mutual Housing. Residents who pay rent on-time will start seeing a bump up in their credit scores just like on-time mortgage payments help the credit of home owners.

When it comes down to it, Mutual Housing believes that renters should have the same opportunity as home owners to have a sense of pride in their housing, feel real ownership of their neighborhoods, and take control of their financial lives. Mutual Housing brings stability and health to families, seniors, the disabled and entire communities. And you, our partners and supporters, contribute to our success in making that happen.

Here’s to a 2017 in which we continue to work with you to innovate our way to healthy communities!

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