New affordable housing community Cornerstone offers hope, homeownership in South Sacramento

Tiffany Timberman, a homeowner at the Cornerstone housing development in South Sacramento in front of her home on Le Donne Drive on Monday, March 18. Photograph by Steve Martarano

By Chris Nichols for Capital Public Radio

A unique affordable housing community called Cornerstone opened last week in South Sacramento, offering everything from services for formerly unhoused residents to opportunities at homeownership. 

The first-of-its-kind project for the Sacramento region includes bright yellow apartment buildings located directly across the street from 18 single family homes. Built by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, the homes will be owned by income-qualified residents who put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” to build the structures with Habitat volunteers. 

Cornerstone’s 108 apartments will offer housing for low-income tenants and include 16 units for people who recently experienced homelessness. Case management services will help those residents with rent, securing IDs and mental health care, according to the project’s developers. The community straddles Le Donne Drive near 47th Avenue south of Lemon Hill. 

Roberto Jimenez is CEO with Mutual Housing of California, which built the rental units. By placing single family homes across from the apartments, Jimenez said he hopes to inspire dreams of homeownership. 

“A lot of our residents don’t realize that they can be a homeowner and I wanted to demonstrate to them that this is possible,” Jimenez explained. “And it’s working. People are telling me already that they have an understanding they now potentially could be a homeowner.” 

Cornerstone relied on state and local affordable housing funds. A spokesperson for Mutual Housing placed the estimated cost of the apartments at $44.5 million, while he said the single family homes cost $5.4 million.

Cornerstone resident Brenda Smith and her dog, Brandy, outside the new development in South Sacramento on Monday, March 18. Photograph by Steve Martarano

Residents have begun moving into both sides of the community, though about half the single-family homes remain under construction. 

This past Christmas, Tiffany Timberman was able to give her four children something they’ve never had: A new home of their own. She said constantly worried about mold and lead pipes in her family’s previous home, a crowded rental in West Sacramento. 

“We didn’t think we were ever going to make it for homeownership,” Timberman said, noting her family couldn’t qualify for a traditional loan and was concerned about high mortgage rates. “It was heaven sent when we got accepted in this program. We were just so, so blown away.” 

Through Habitat’s homeownership program, Timberman said she pays 30% of her family’s income toward the home’s mortgage and also pays property tax. Months after moving in, she said she’s still emotional about the first time her kids ran through the new house.

“They were so excited!” she said. “Going like, ‘this is mine’ for the first time because they never really had their own space. Just the joy on their faces. It tears me up every time.”

The Habitat chapter builds and repairs homes for low-income residents across the Sacramento region. Its program allows new owners to purchase homes with a 30-year-mortgage and zero percent interest rate. 

Apartment units at the Cornerstone housing community in Sacramento on Monday, March 18. Photograph by Steve Martaran

Mutual Housing has developed numerous affordable housing projects across the region, from apartments serving at LGBTQ+ seniors near downtown Sacramento to farmworkers in Yolo County to the first affordable housing community in Sacramento’s Railyards development

Cornerstone is the first joint project between Habitat and Mutual Housing, though officials with both say more collaborations are in the works. They added that developers must get creative given the scale of the affordable housing crisis in Sacramento and across the state.

“It’s going to take all of us coming together and coming up with innovative solutions, thinking outside the box,” said Leah Miller, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento. “There’s no one individual, no one organization, no one jurisdiction, no one alone who can solve this.”

Contact CapRadio reporter Chris Nichols at 

This story is part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. Solving Sacramento is supported by funding from the James Irvine Foundation and the James B. McClatchy Foundation. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.

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