7555 Mission Street breaks the Habitat for Humanity mold.

A 36-unit condominium in Daly City, just south of San Francisco, the development is one of the largest and most innovative built by the famed organization known for assembling volunteers to build single-family homes around the world.

"This is leading edge in the Habitat world," says Phillip Kilbridge, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

7555 Mission shows how the organization is continuing to evolve to add more multifamily developments to its repertoire. The group built an eight-unit project in San Francisco several years ago.

Relying on 11,000 volunteers who collectively donated nearly 155,000 hours, the local organization created a high-density development that maximizes homeownership opportunities in one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation.

Construction began in June 2010, with the first volunteers working on-site in February 2011 and the last volunteers putting the finishing touches on the homes at the end of March.

Daly City opened the door for 7555 Mission by purchasing the site, which had been a rental car lot and had a market value of $3 million, and then donating the land to Habitat.

The city also supported increasing the allowable density on the small site. Built on just 0.69 acres, the development has a final density of about 52 units per acre.

These moves were critical in creating the maximum number of homes and transforming an underutilized property. The new development is a cornerstone of the area's Grand Boulevard Initiative, a sweeping multi-jurisdiction effort to revitalize El Camino Real, a major transit corridor.

Designed by architect Don Ionescu, the three-story buildings constructed over podium parking aren't the typical Habitat home, but the idea behind them remains true to the organization, according to Kilbridge.

"So much of what we have done historically is the sweat equity model, the homeownership model, the zero-downpayment model," he says. These key tenets can still be found at 7555 Mission. The low-income families selected to become the new homeowners contributed 500 hours of labor to building the project. In a region where median home prices recently hit $510,000, the highest level in five years, the homeowners at 7555 Mission will acquire their units for about $225,000 with mortgage deductions.

Despite the challenges that come with working on a large multifamily structure, volunteers still did the lion's share of work, including framing, solar panel installation, and electrical wiring. The team outsourced only a few jobs such as the plumbing.

It helped that the two- and three-bedroom condos were similar. The team also worked on the first unit off-site to get out the kinks and then came on-site.

The solar panels are just one of the green features found at the development. Located a stone's throw from public transportation, the property has tankless water heaters, energy-efficient building products, and drought-tolerant landscaping.

As the families worked side by side to build 7555 Mission, they quickly bonded and formed a community before moving into their units, says Kilbridge, noting that they were planning carpools and baby-sitting clubs in anticipation of becoming neighbors.

Habitat financed the $12.9 million development with the help of several sources, including about $2 million from New Markets Tax Credits from the Northern California Community Loan Fund and investor U.S. Bank.

In addition to donating the land, Daly City provided about $2 million in HOME and redevelopment agency funds.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development also supported the project with a $1.7 million grant from the state's Prop 1C bond for affordable housing and $990,000 from the CalHOME program. And, the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco provided $540,000 from its Affordable Housing Program.

With 7555 Mission completed, Kilbridge and his team have high hopes to build on the experience. They have several more developments in the works, including a 28-unit project in San Francisco.