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Oakland moms get to buy house they occupied

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Despite an armed eviction, Moms 4 Housing may get a long-term watershed on contentious West Oakland property

Moms 4 Housing supporters protest in front of a vacant house in West Oakland,
Moms 4 Housing supporters protest in front of a vacant house in West Oakland.
Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Despite late-night eviction by armed sheriffs, a group of homeless mothers say they’re now negotiating to buy the West Oakland home where they’ve been squatting in since November.

Homeowner Wedgewood Properties will work with the Oakland Community Land Trust, a housing nonprofit, to purchase the three-bedroom home on behalf of the families who moved into the then-vacant property. The news was announced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“Today we honor Dr. King’s radical legacy by taking Oakland back from banks and corporations,” says Moms 4 Housing cofounder Dominique Walker.

Walker and others have pushed for Wedgewood to bargain with the land trust in the past, but the company previously chose to pursue legal action instead.

In an emailed statement, Wedgewood spokesperson Sam Singer confirmed the new deal. He credited Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid for working out the housing deal, but avoided naming anyone from Moms 4 Housing or tenants group Alliance of Californians For Community Empowerment (ACCE) that has worked closely with them.

Speaking for the Southern California-based company, Singer called the compromise “a step in the right direction.”

Noting that the scope of the crisis exceeds legal technicalities, Mayor Schaaf hailed the deal, saying that the negotiation proves “everyone cares about this crisis.”

She added, “I cannot condone unlawful acts, but I can respect them.”

Schaaf also says that Wedgewood has promised in the future to offer affordable housing organizations the rights of first refusal—i.e. the first opportunity to buy a new home before it goes onto the market—on all of the company’s Oakland properties.

The housing standoff began in November, when several families began living in the Wedgewood-owned West Oakland house sans invitation, framing the move-in as a protest and act of civil disobedience against the unachievable cost of Bay Area housing and ongoing homeless crisis.

Although the formerly homeless moms claimed a legal right to occupy the home without the owners’ consent, a federal judge batted down their case earlier this month. Alameda County sheriffs served the families with an eviction with the help of armored vehicles and a battering ram a few days later.

Once the purchase is complete, Walker and the other mothers say they will move back into the house and use it as a site for future activism.