Group of Oakland Women Who Are Homeless And Pushing For Affordable Housing Confront Mayor During Press Conference
Members of Moms 4 Housing have been occupying a vacant home since November and are being threatened with eviction.
January 08, 2020 at 7:18 pm
A group of Oakland women who are homeless, who have banded together to create Moms 4 Housing, interrupted a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday to protest the rising cost of housing, reports The Mercury News.
During the press conference, Senator Scott Wiener announced a new bill to prompt more housing development, and the women interrupted, shouting “affordable housing now.”
Moms4Housing chanting during Oakland Mayor’s speech pic.twitter.com/G1Q41rKO32— Sarah Ravani (@SarRavani) January 7, 2020
“We have a terrible housing crisis here in California, and we see the effects every day. People are being pushed into poverty, and people are being pushed out of California, and people are being pushed into multi-hour commutes,” Wiener said as the women continued in their attempts to get the mayor's attention.
The bill, which was first introduced last year, forces cities to allow duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes on land that is currently zoned for single-family homes. It also requires cities to approve larger apartment buildings near transit stops and job hubs. Wiener is attempting to push it through a Senate floor vote by the January 31 deadline.
Moms 4 Housing believe the legislation will allow too many luxury homes to be built instead of affordable housing and believe it’s a solution that won’t work.
The women have been illegally living in a vacant three-bedroom house since November. They took it over after not being able to find permanent housing, reports KTLA.
They are currently waiting to hear the final ruling from a judge on whether or not they can stay. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Patrick McKinney has tentatively ruled in favor of the property owner, Wedgewood Inc., a real-estate investment group that bought the home in a foreclosure auction last year.
Dominique Walker, a 34-year-old mother of two daughters who has been living in the house, said too many people in her neighborhood have been forced out due to the escalating prices.
"Housing is a human right. I pay bills there. I pay water, PG&E, internet. We live there," Walker said. "We want to purchase the home ... it needs to belong back in the hands of the community. It was stolen through the foreclosure crisis."
Video: Members of @moms4housing venting their frustration to Oakland Mayor @LibbySchaaf. The moms say the city is opening doors for developers to build high-rise luxury apartments, but turning their backs on struggling families. @nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/pjQclQkno1— Melissa Colorado (@melissacolorado) January 7, 2020
"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," Singer said Tuesday. "This is really a case about a group of people taking the law into their own hands."
The number of people who are homeless has increased over the past two years in Oakland, spiking from 1,900 to 3,000. The median price of a home in California is $500,000 and even higher in the Bay Area, according to CBS News. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom approved a statewide rent cap on some properties.
"There are four vacant homes for per every person without a home in Oakland according to Leah Simon-Weisberg, an attorney for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment," reports CBS News. Empty houses are mostly in minority neighborhoods.
One woman from the group confronted Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf directly after she addressed the crowd.
"I felt exploited by you as my mayor today when I watched the news. I felt exploited by you as a mayor when I looked at the news this morning. You have not talked to us. You have not come to us, but you used every last thing we've done, our words, to push this," they said to Schaaf. "That's not for us, so I'm twisted now. I am confused on what you stand for."
Schaaf released a statement regarding the press conference as well as the proposed bill.
“The anger we saw today was real and legitimate — we are in the depths of a housing crisis that is unjustly impacting our most vulnerable residents, and particularly African American residents,” the statement read.“The path to undo the harms caused by decades of exclusionary housing policy is to adopt legislation like SB50, which is one of a larger array of transformative changes that will help lift all of us out of this crisis.”
Moms 4 Housing is also receiving support from California lawmakers.
“I want to thank Moms 4 Housing for taking that house and for demonstrating that nowhere, nowhere should there be a vacant house anywhere in California when we have the housing crisis that we have,” said Democratic Senator Nancy Skinner. “And it was totally legitimate for those homeless moms to take over that house.”