Community unites with homeless moms against housing speculators
Editor’s note: As we go to print, a victory for Moms4Housing was announced. Wedgewood Properties agreed to sell the house to the Oakland Community Land Trust. Moms will move back in.
OAKLAND, CA — Members of the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) at Laney College in Oakland, California, attended the December San Francisco mass meeting of the national Poor People’s Campaign Tour, “We Must do M.O.R.E” (Mobilizing, Organizing, Registering, Educating). One student noted, “This campaign is something new for me, seeing people coming together across race, religious denomination, gender, sexuality, and geography saying, ‘We will not be silent anymore, because everybody’s got a right to live!’ It opened my eyes to the plight of the U.S. poor. As I marched, sang and chanted with the crowd, I realized that in order to be heard, one must turn up and speak up.”
In Oakland, a concrete battle for housing as a human right has broken out led by Moms4 Housing, a collective of insecurely housed mothers, who occupied a vacant investor-owned house in West Oakland on November 18 to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from real estate speculators. The Laney PPC, Bay Area PPC, and many others are actively supporting the Moms by attending rallies, strategy sessions, court hearings, eviction defense, posting on social media and conducting political education. The house, vacant for over 18 months, is owned by corporate investor Wedgewood Properties, a “flipper” of distressed residential real estate. The United Nations has identified Oakland, with four empty housing units for every homeless person, as a “hedge city,” dominated by financial corporations that make speculative bets and own massive amounts of housing, driving up housing prices.
PPC members joined the large group of supporters attending their eviction court hearings. While the judge refused to hear expert testimony on the Oakland housing crisis, he did consider the Moms’ defense that housing is a human right, eventually deciding in favor of Wedgewood that the Moms should be evicted. One Laney PPC member posed, “The question for me as a minister and theologian is: are property rights more sacred than human beings?”
Hundreds in the community rallied and conducted eviction defense on January 13, chanting “Housing is a Human right!” and “No More Speculators!” But around 5 a.m. on January 14, sheriffs with riot gear, assault rifles and an armored vehicle conducted a militarized eviction, arresting two mothers and two supporters, who were then bailed out the same day. We need to decommodify housing and make it available to everyone! The people of Oakland are fighting for that. As Dominique Walker of Moms4Housing said, “We view what happened today as a beginning of a movement. . . for housing for all.”