By Roberto Jimenez
Here we go again – another report that puts an exclamation point on Sacramento’s affordable housing crisis.
According to the latest National Low Income Housing Coalition’s report, our city is now on the nation’s top ten list with the least number of affordable rental units for extremely low-income households. They estimated that Sacramento has on average 41 units available for every 100 low-income households. Only one in five extremely low-income households are able to find a unit they can afford.
The city, the county, the state, and the federal government have never worked together as well as they are right now tackling this issue with everything they’ve got: progressive laws, good land use and housing planning, local regulatory reform, and billions in financial investments. But change takes time. Moving the needle on housing takes a lot of it, and government can’t do it alone.
At Mutual Housing we have worked alongside of and with government to chip away at the shortage for a long time now. This latest news only fires us up even more.
We will continue to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work needed to turn this around. We will build more units as fast as we can where it makes sense for everyone involved.
As the saying goes: our attitude determines our altitude.
We have been in the affordable housing business in Sacramento for 34 years now and have grown to become one of the most productive nonprofit affordable housing providers in the region. With our 21 properties, we house more than 3,000 people in safe, vibrant small communities close to where people work and where they can take care of their families.
Some 61 percent of those in a Mutual Housing community are among the working poor. They are either employed fulltime providing goods or services for someone else, or they are self-employed. Some work part time supplemented by some appropriate form of public assistance to make ends meet. About 40 percent are families with children and another 21 percent have worked enough over the course of their lives to list Social Security as a key source of their income. Over half live below the poverty line.
We have invested over $100 million to renovate previously substandard properties or build entirely new communities all with one idea in mind: improve the lives of our residents. We introduce the importance of digital literacy. We provide opportunities for on-time rent payments to improve credit scores. We work with families to create a culture where all of their children believe they can go to college and earn decent incomes so they can afford to live near good jobs.
We get support to do all of this from government, but also from foundations, private donors, corporate sponsors, and the financial institutions that invest in us. We also invest our own money. Whether it is a community that houses farmworkers like the one we opened in 2019 in Woodland, or the upcoming completion of Lavender Courtyard in midtown for older LGBTQ members, we are determined to do this because it is the right thing to do.
We are thrilled with the progress of our latest development plan for building 1000 new homes, 16 of which are supportive housing units on 47th Street, known as Cornerstone. We are partnering with Habitat for Humanity which is building green homes on the property. It will make for a wonderful South Sac community.
Two thirds of folks the people at our Highlands community were formerly homeless. Some 164 people at our property on the Greenway would otherwise be subsisting in previously roach infested units before we took it over and rehabbed it into a model of affordable housing in south Sacramento. And for sure, farmworkers living in our award-winning Spring Lake community in Woodland would be doubled up with other families or living in unfinished garages or in lean-tos in the fields.
And the best part? We know that within six years of someone moving into a Mutual Housing property, the average family can move out and up – their children healthier and better educated, the adults empowered and everyone moving forward with the confidence that comes from having had a safe, clean affordable place to live and thrive.
I have every confidence that in the near future, we will see a great deal more affordable housing units being built under the strong leadership of the city and the county and with help from our state and federal government. We applaud the city for becoming the first prohousing designated city in this state, which qualifies them to get bonus points when the state scores their applications for state affordable housing funding.
So, while we continue to see those headlines that say the sky is falling on affordable housing, we need to be mindful of where we stand but also mindful of how far we have come, and how far the region intends to go.
Everyone who works for Mutual is proud to do the kind of work that will change lives and strengthen this community of which we are all so proud. Perseverance and patience will serve us well.
Roberto Jimenez is the chief executive officer of Mutual Housing California