OAKLAND, CA — The violent eviction of homeless Black mothers and their children from the vacant house in West Oakland they occupied for the past two months brings the Bay Area, and increasingly national, housing crisis into sharp focus. Around 5:30 a.m., Alameda County sheriff’s deputies broke down the door with guns drawn, backed by armed personnel in military fatigues with semi-automatic rifles, and multiple armored vehicles. Authorities arrested two of the moms and two supporters, boarding up the house to prevent reentry.
As housing justice advocates and allies from across the nation, we decry these extreme measures which do nothing to address the crisis of real estate speculation and homelessness engulfing Oakland, especially its Black community.
It is well established that there are thousands of vacant properties in Oakland alongside rising numbers of homeless people, including children. Wedgewood Properties, the owners of the disputed house that the mothers have been occupying, is a real estate investment firm that profits from flipping properties, which it calls the “backbone” of its business model. Oakland lost 35,000 homes to foreclosure between 2007 to 2012, during the foreclosure crisis. The impact was disproportionate in Black and brown neighborhoods, due to predatory and racist subprime lending practices that targeted these residents. Wedgewood and other speculators have scooped up these foreclosed homes, driven up housing costs, and reduced the stock of affordable housing for low-income residents.
The house occupied by Black mothers and their children lay vacant for two years before the moms took action. From their own first-hand experiences, the Moms 4 Housing know the intolerable gulf between declining real incomes for low-wage workers and skyrocketing rents, the impossible odds of securing affordable housing or a voucher, and the brutal inadequacy of underfunded homeless services.
By taking action, the Moms 4 Housing have courageously exposed the roots of the homelessness crisis, and pointed the way to real policy solutions. The most effective solution to homelessness is stable and affordable housing. Every child and person deserves a home. The situation in Oakland adds to the urgency to find big, systemic solutions to the homelessness condition and the housing crisis. It is time to declare that housing is a human right.
This morning’s eviction is not an end to this fight. We fully support the demands of Moms 4 Housing: we call on Wedgewood to sell the home to Oakland Community Land Trust, so the moms may continue to live there and raise their children in peace, with long-term stability; and we call on Oakland and Alameda County to explore steps to repossess vacant homes to secure their use for community needs, to end the inhumane and unnecessary homelessness that has become ubiquitous. We call for the charges against those arrested to be dropped immediately. We applaud City Councillors Nikki Fortunato Bas, Dan Kalb, and Council President Rebecca Kaplan for urging Wedgewood to negotiate, and call on government officials to lift all punitive action against the moms and support their demands.
Alliance for Housing Justice
Berkeley Media Studies Group
Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California
Right to the City Alliance
Western Regional Advocacy Project
Janet Byrd, Executive Director, Neighborhood Partnerships*
Eboni Joy Carter, Atlanta Co-Coordinator, FTP Movement*
Elizabeth Glidden, Minnesota Housing Partnership*
Lisa Hershey, Executive Director, Housing California*
Rachel Myers, Executive Director, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance*
Christan Rozzell, Co-Founder, REFUGE, Inc.
* Organizational affiliations for identification purposes only
For Immediate Release: January 14, 2020
Contact: Alexis Stephens, 267-872-3924 firstname.lastname@example.org