Del Paso Heights is undergoing a renaissance. Although it’s one of Sacramento’s oldest neighborhoods, it has been underserved and neglected. Now, a recent focus on economic development and revitalization is starting a transformation in the historic community.
The formation of Del Paso Heights dates back to 1844 as part of a 44,000-acre Mexican land grant to Eliab Grimes. It served as the site of a horse-breeding farm and produced California’s first Kentucky Derby winner in 1886.
While Del Paso Heights has a rich agricultural history, in recent years, the community has experienced growth with new housing developments providing the opportunity for residents to own their own home. As a result, it’s become one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse areas in Sacramento.
Like many other first-time home buyers, 30-year-old Fatima Malik remembers feeling overwhelmed when she began looking into buying a new home in Del Paso Heights. She grew up in the community and worked in the neighborhood as an activist for several years, so it made sense for her to settle down there. Malik was interested in buying a new home at Heritage at Del Paso Nuevo, a new community of three and four bedroom homes located off Ford Road.
“I lived in North Sacramento for 16 years and I went to Grant High School,” Malik said. “When I got out on my own, I had always rented. I never thought I would be able to buy my own home. It didn’t seem possible, but I did it. Now I’m building equity and I have something I can pass on.”
Allen Warren has fostered the Del Paso Nuevo development as both a private developer, and more recently, a city councilman representing Del Paso Heights.
“Del Paso Nuevo is a vital new investment in my district and specifically in the Del Paso Heights and Strawberry Manor communities,” Warren said. “It’s an innovative and collaborative development partnership that's making a true difference in two of the great old communities in Sacramento.”
For longtime North Sacramento residents Phyllis Burden and her mother, Louise Williams, the addition of the new homes at Heritage is a sign of the changing face of the neighborhood.
“Neighborhoods like this are showing people that they have an opportunity to buy a home in this area,” Burden said. “For a long time, there was no new housing. Now, we’re seeing people are interested in planting a stake in the community. There’s a change of mindset from people believing they could never afford to buy a home to wanting to learn more about the process.”
Home buyer Malik was able to make the dream of owning a home a reality with the help of down payment assistance programs.
She learned about the programs at a home ownership class hosted by Mutual Assistance Network, a nonprofit dedicated to helping residents of Del Paso Heights through outreach, education and economic development.
Katy Robb, a director of Mutual Assistance Network, said the largest barrier to home ownership is the misconception that it is not possible with either no credit or a poor credit history. Robb said others often believe they will not be able to afford a mortgage payment.
“What we try to do is break down that barrier to make people realize home ownership is possible for them,” Robb said.
Part of Mutual Assistance Network’s outreach includes holding home ownership classes four times a year where community members can meet with a lender and learn about their options.
Aaron Meilich, a branch manager with HomeStreet Bank and partner with Mutual Assistance Network, said many low-income families often pay more in rent than what they would pay for a monthly mortgage payment.
Meilich cites a real scenario from Heritage at Del Paso Nuevo in which a family of four with a monthly household income of $4,056 purchased a home for $239,550 with a monthly payment of about $1,350.
“In many cases, that is less than paying rent in Sacramento,” he said.
Quanata McClendon, 46, also attended those classes. Like Malik, she believed she would never be able to own a home. She had been paying rent for years and was the sole earner for her household. When she passed by the Heritage at Del Paso Nuevo model homes one day, she fell in love with the community.
“They had redeveloped the area and everything looked so nice,” McClendon said. “I had always heard that there was a lot of crime in Del Paso Heights, but when I saw that neighborhood, what I saw was a wonderful neighborhood filled with families.”
From that moment, McClendon knew she wanted to live in Del Paso Heights.
“With prices going up, I was sure I would have to have a dual income to afford a home,” McClendon said. “But I had nothing to lose by looking into it. I went to a homeownership class and learned there are all kinds of options for first-time buyers.”
McClendon received the keys to her home in May –– a little more than two months after she started the home-buying process and she is still ecstatic about owning her own home.
“I’m just so happy,” McClendon said. “I truly have a piece of the America Dream.”
Heritage at Del Paso Nuevo is a neighborhood of affordably priced and traditionally designed new homes just 10 minutes from downtown Sacramento.
A generous loan assistance program is available on a select number of the homes and it is already helping many home buyers get their start. For more information, visit HeritageDelPaso.com or call (916) 223-0643.