Two working, homeless mothers who moved into a vacant house owned by a real estate investment firm will soon be evicted.
Following a nearly two-month standoff and pleas to negotiate a sale that would have allowed the mothers and their children to stay in the West Oakland home, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that the women did not have a right to possess the property.
The Magnolia Street house was kept vacant by Wedgewood Inc. for 18 months prior to Nov. 18, when the moms moved in and began making repairs. The highly publicized case brought attention to increasing housing costs in Oakland and the role real estate speculators play. According to Wedgewood’s website, the company is headquartered in Redondo Beach.
Sameerah Karim, one of the two moms and co-founder of the Moms 4 Housing collective, said on the group’s website:
“There are four times as many empty homes in Oakland as there are homeless people.”
“Why should anyone – especially children – sleep on the street while perfectly good homes sit empty?”
Dominique Walker, 34, the other half of the initial Moms 4 Housing pair and plaintiff in the motion, said:
“We tried working through the system to find affordable housing. We both hold down multiple jobs and take care of our families. But this system doesn’t work for people; it only works for banks and corporations.”
The two women drew substantial support from the public, several housing advocacy organizations, state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Calif.) and three Oakland City Councilmembers, who all called on Wedgewood to negotiate a sale of the home.
Wedgewood spokesperson Sam Singer said in a statement:
“Wedgewood owns this home, and these squatters have broken into it, they’re illegally occupying it, and that is not the right thing to do. It’s simply theft.”
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s Chief of Staff Bobbi Lopez issued a statement Dec. 30 that read in part:
“What the moms are doing isn’t about bringing on a movement of squatters to take over properties but raising the issue of what we do with multi million dollar corporations that form LLCs and leave these properties vacant for years-many, like this house, taken in foreclosure.”
In response to Judge Patrick McKinney’s decision, the Moms 4 Housing group said in a tweet:
“We are not surprised by the ruling. We understand that the courts’ hands are tied because in this country property rights are valued over human rights. That is why the California constitution needs to be amended to include the right to housing.”
Still, the moms are holding out and said they “will not leave the property.” Moms 4 Housing has called for a 2 p.m. emergency press conference at the 2928 Magnolia Street house.