Thursday, January 29, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Developer’s commitments: affordable and green

Big dogW

Rachel Iskow, CEO of Mutual Housing California, snuggles up to a big dog, the mascot for the Big Day of Giving, which Iskow touted on Mutual Housing's social media as BIG DoG. In addition to being a visionary in the field of affordable housing, she's a lot of fun, her co-workers say. Courtesy photo

By Dell Richards

Mutual Housing California’s chief executive officer has been bringing the green revolution to affordable housing communities in Yolo County for the past 20 years.

When Rachel Iskow joined Mutual Housing in 1994, the nonprofit had 300 residents. Today, the Sacramento-based organization has more than 3,000 low-income residents, nearly 1,000 of whom live in the five Davis communities.

It has three net-zero energy developments in the planning and development stages, including one for farm workers in woodland.

“Rachel Iskow has been the visionary behind our green revolution and the growth of our new communities,” said Lucas Frerichs, a Davis City Council member and former Yolo Mutual Housing Association president.

The Sacramento-based nonprofit merged with Yolo Mutual Housing in 2008. By doing so, the Davis board members were able to develop resident-centered housing for low-wage workers, seniors and the disabled.

“That decision turned out to be a great benefit to both Davis and the organization because the two combined brought stronger resources to the area,” Frerichs said.

This past year, the nonprofit opened the highest solar-energy producing private property in Davis, a city known for its green commitment.

Mutual Housing recently started an in-house property management company to use green maintenance techniques and materials that also creates jobs for residents.

The organization also is planning a bicycle-oriented development in Stockton.

“As the CEO, Iskow has seen many different ways of expanding the organization,” said Colin Bailey, executive director of Environmental Justice Coalition for Water.

As importantly, Iskow kept the doors open during the recent economic downturn when redevelopment funding was stopped and no one knew what would happen. She found other sources of funding.

During that time, Mutual Housing opened its first community with on-site social services for formerly homeless individuals and families and continued developing others.

Under her leadership, Mutual Housing also became the first developer in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District region to construct a multi-family property with photovoltaic panels in 2002.

Before joining Mutual Housing in 1994, Iskow oversaw affordable housing development and operations at Rural California Housing Corp. She currently chairs the board of the California Coalition for Rural Housing and is a board member of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, a coalition that advocates for affordable housing and the rights of the homeless.

She has a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley.

Founded in 1988, Mutual Housing California develops, operates and advocates for sustainable rental housing for the diversity of the region’s households. Nearly half the residents are children.

For information, visit www.mutualhousing.com.

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