East Bay mother on path to homeownership thanks to Habitat for Humanity

An East Bay mother is already planning what she'll do in her new three-bedroom home in Walnut Creek as she waits for construction to begin.

"Have birthday parties, have families over. Everything really," said Tiya Kuma.

Kuma said her two small children are making plans too.

"Our daughter wants to color her room purple. My son wants space and planets. They're ready," she said.

Kuma's new home will sit on the northern end of Walnut Creek, an area called the Contra Costa Centre Transit Village.

She currently lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland with her two children and husband. She was approved to move into one of 42 affordable homes Habitat for Humanity is building in Walnut Creek.

The project is called Esperanza Place.

The homes are designated for low and moderate-income families, typically priced out of the market.

"To be able to buy a home where you can actually afford the mortgage and your rent is not going up at the whim of a landlord is a huge deal," said Janice Jensen, president of Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley.

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Through Habitat for Humanity, a family of four earning around $60,000 a year can afford to live in affluent Walnut Creek. The new townhouses will be worth at least $700,000.

Mayor Kevin Wilk said affordable housing is necessary for Walnut Creek.

"It was never this high-income necessity when I grew up. But we want a place where everybody can live, the schools, the shopping, and dining. And not have to commute for an hour-and-a-half to get here," the mayor said.

Habitat for Humanity held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, but the day arrived about a year late due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Esperanza Place is Walnut Creek's largest affordable housing project, although another one is in the pipeline.

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"These might be teachers, people who work in retail. They need a place to live," said Wilk.

But future residents will not be sitting back waiting for builders to finish. 
Habitat for Humanity runs on volunteerism. Residents must put in at least 500 hours of labor during construction.

"By the time Habitat is done and we pull out, families know each other, children know each other. They have study groups. They have a whole community built-in," said Jensen.

When asked whether she was good at construction, Kuma said while flexing her arm "Hey, check this muscle. But I don't know. We'll see."

Construction for Esperanza Place is expected to take about 18 months. This means families should be able to move there in 2023.