Sacramento, Calif., Multifamily Developer Going for First Green Certification

Construction of Mutual Housing at the Highlands has just been completed. Eight years in the making, the nonprofit’s staff expects it to be Sacramento|Yolo Mutual Housing Association’s first green-certified multifamily development.

Mutual Housing has been known for its green focus since 2003 when the nonprofit became the first multifamily development to install solar electricity in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

“Mutual Housing has a long-standing commitment to sustainable development in all our affordable housing properties,” said Holly Wunder-Stiles, director of housing development for Sacramento|Yolo Mutual Housing Association.

Recycling and using engineered and precut lumber reduced construction waste. Installation of 40-year roof shingles and the use of fly ash in the concrete added to resource conservation. A community-wide trash masher was also incorporated during construction.

Cabinets, interior trim and flooring were made from durable, long-lasting materials, so they won’t need to be replaced as often as conventional choices. Low-mercury lighting was an important consideration for ease of disposal.

The orientation of the buildings also will save energy. Housing includes ductless heating in the smaller units and evaporative coolers in the larger ones as well as tankless water heaters in each. Higher-than-standard insulation and radiant barriers in the roof increases energy efficiency.

Mutual Housing also installed solar panels for electricity and hot-water through utility rebates.

Drought-resistant landscaping, smart irrigation, low-flow toilets, high-efficiency faucets and shower heads as well as Energy Star appliances added to the water-saving aspects of the community.

Of the 90 units, 66 are for the homeless, also a first for Mutual Housing. Because of health issues associated with homeless individuals, indoor air quality was a major consideration for the development. A two-week air flush-out of the housing units between completion and occupancy will give residents higher-than-usual indoor air quality.

Low-VOC finishes and glues, low-formaldehyde insulation and cabinets as well as high-efficiency kitchen and bathroom fans also will help keep the air quality high once residents move in.

Being recognized for its green practices in its latest development adds to Mutual Housing vision of permanently affordable housing with strong and stable communities.

“We’re very proud of this achievement,” Wunder-Stiles said. 

Located on a 3.5-acre parcel in the McClellan Redevelopment Area in north Sacramento, the Highlands has 62 efficiency units, 16 one-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom units. Occupancy is expected this fall.

Onsite social services for the homeless are being provided by Turning Point, Lutheran Social Services of Northern California and The Effort. Funding for Turning Point services comes from the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act partially funded the development. Operating support comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency and the California Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) Housing Program.

Development costs were $5 million, and construction costs were $14 million. Long-term operating costs are supported by substantial capitalized operating revenues. Wells Fargo Bank is the construction lender.

Sacramento, Calif.-based Cynthia Easton Architects and Chico, Calif.-based Sunseri Construction Inc. worked on the project.

Mutual Housing staff hope to have formal Build It Green certification by the end of the year.

Founded in 1988, Sacramento|Yolo Mutual Housing Association develops and operates well-designed rental housing for modest-income households. The communities have 2,600 residents, half of whom are children.

Through Mutual Housing’s focus on leadership, the nonprofit also provides training and mentoring as well as educational programs, community-building activities and services for residents and neighbors. For more information, visit