Homeless women fight to stay in Oakland house

News

Oakland, California (AP) – Some California lawmakers said they support a group of homeless women who have been illegally living in a vacant three-bedroom house since November, partly to protest real estate speculators who drive up housing costs in the pricey San Francisco Bay Area.

Moms 4 Housing, a collective recently formed to support the Oakland women, interrupted a press conference on legislation to boost housing construction Tuesday at City Hall, shouting “affordable housing now.”

“Nowhere should there be a vacant house anywhere in California when we have the housing crisis that we have,” said Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley. “And it was totally legitimate for those homeless moms to take over that house.”

The women took over the home after they said they were unable to find permanent housing in the Bay Area, where high-paying tech jobs have exacerbated income inequality and a housing shortage. They also say they’re protesting real estate developers who snap up distressed homes, then leave them empty.

They are awaiting a final ruling from a judge on whether they can stay, though Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney has tentatively ruled in favor of the property owner, Wedgewood Inc., a Redondo Beach-based real estate investment group that bought the home in a foreclosure auction last year.

Dominique Walker, 34, who has 1- and 5-year-old daughters, said she moved back to her native Oakland from Mississippi last year but could not find a place to live in the pricey market. She said many of the people who used to live in her neighborhood have been forced out by rising prices.

“We’re willing to purchase it. It needs to belong back in the hands of the community from which it was stolen. It was stolen through the foreclosure crisis, which displaced a lot of our people put them on the streets and made them into renters,” Walker said.

The company bought the home for $501,000 and took possession days after the women moved in, said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Wedgewood. The 1908 house has one bathroom and is about 1,500 square feet (139 square meters).

“The squatters and the women that have taken possession of this home illegally broke into it and won’t leave. Wedgewood has no other choice but to go to the court and have them evicted because they’re there illegally,” Singer said.

Singer said Wedgewood buys distressed properties, hires local workers to fix up the homes and sells them, hopefully to first-time homebuyers.

He said the company will continue with its eviction proceedings against the women if the judge rules in the company’s favor, as expected.

Lawyers for Walker argued in court last week that housing is a right and the court should allow the women to possess the house, particularly because it was vacant for a long time and the alternative would be to send them to the streets.

Many Oakland residents say they are being pushed to the fringes of the Bay Area as they struggle to keep pace with housing costs.

Federal officials said last month that an uptick in the country’s homeless population was driven entirely by a 16% increase in California, where the median sales price of a home is $500,000. It’s higher in the San Francisco Bay Area.

For local, national, and breaking news, and to get weather alerts, download our FREE mobile app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

CBS47 On Your Side

Do you have a problem that you need help solving? Contact CBS47 and let us be On Your Side.

Phone: 559-761-0383
Email: OnYourSide@cbsfresno.com

Don’t Miss

Best of the Valley
Sunday Morning Matters
MedWatch Today
Hispanic Heritage
Bulldog Insider: The Podcast
The Valley's Armenia
Pros Who Know