A group of homeless mothers evicted and arrested after squatting in an empty Oakland residence have reached an agreement to buy the home in a radical conclusion to a struggle that shone a renewed spotlight on the Bay Area’s dire housing shortage.
The women, known collectively as Moms 4 Housing, occupied a house in West Oakland from November until Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies removed them in a pre-dawn raid on January 14. Cops also arrested two of the women, along with two men on the scene. Around the same time as that eviction raid, hundreds of supporters gathered at the house to express solidarity with the mothers’ rallying cry of “housing is a human right.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Moms 4 Housing announced that the women—who were released from jail last week—reached an agreement to purchase the property from its owner with the help of a local nonprofit, Oakland Community Land Trust.
“This is what happens when we organize, when people come together to build the beloved community. Today we honor Dr. King’s radical legacy by taking Oakland back from banks and corporations,” said Dominique Walker, one of the mothers who was living in the home.
The house, owned by the Southern California real estate company Wedgewood, had remained empty for two years, even as homelessness in Oakland rose by nearly half in the same time period. Members of Oakland’s city council had urged the company to make a deal with the mothers to end the dispute.
In a statement, the company said, “Wedgewood is thankful for the outpouring of support for our company throughout the illegal occupation of our Oakland property. We appreciate the local, state and national support for property owners as well as the public’s support for non-violent discussion and action.”
Activists who worked with the mothers were quick to brandish the outcome as not just a win but a precedent they might repeat.
“The moms fought for all of Oakland,” said Carroll Fife, director of the Oakland chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “Now Wedgewood has pledged to work with the City of Oakland’s Housing and Community Development Department and the Oakland Community Land Trust to negotiate a first right of refusal program for all Oakland properties they own and we will hold them to it.”