Housing in Brief: After Eviction, Moms 4 Housing May Reoccupy Oakland House

Also: Tenants on strike in Washington, D.C., and Republican lawmakers in Washington state pursue a “law-and-order” approach to homelessness.

Dominique Walker, left, and Sharena Thomas, both from the group Moms 4 Housing, cheer during a rally outside of City Hall in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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Land Trust May Acquire Oakland House Occupied by Moms 4 Housing

Last week, two Oakland women were arrested after being evicted from a vacant, investor-owned home that they had occupied for two months, as part of a campaign to bring awareness to homelessness and property speculation in the city. This week, Moms 4 Housing’s fortunes appear to be changing. The Mercury News reports that Wedgewood, the group that owns the property, had agreed to sell it to the Oakland Community Land Trust as part of a deal negotiated by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

The Moms 4 Housing story has made national and international headlines — “Mothers Against Vampire Real Estate,” The New Republic wrote — an indication of how successful the campaign has been. And the impact may be more widespread. As the Mercury News reported, “Wedgewood also agreed to allow the city, the land trust, or other affordable housing organizations the right of first refusal on all of the dozens of properties it owns and had planned to sell in the city.”

Schaaf also reportedly said she was hoping to create laws that give tenants and nonprofit groups a right of first refusal for apartments that go up for sale in the city as a way to create more affordable housing, similar to the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act in San Francisco.

“I cannot condone unlawful acts, but I can respect them, and I can passionately advance the cause that inspired them,” Schaaf said, according to the paper.

Striking Tenants May Face Eviction in D.C.

Across the country, another housing standoff is underway in Washington, D.C. Tenants of a building in Columbia Heights have been withholding rent from their landlord since early December over concerns related to “mold, rodent infestations and inadequate security,” according to reports for The Affordability Desk at WAMU. The owners of the building have taken some of the tenants to court in a possible early step toward eviction, but tenants believe they have a strong argument for withholding rent in light of the property’s conditions, according to the report. The rent strike at the building was in the works for months, according to an earlier WAMU report. Tenant advocates in Washington, including some of the organizers behind the rent strike in Columbia Heights, are hoping to expand the city’s rent control law, which expires at the end of the year.

Washington State Republicans Push a ‘Law and Order’ Approach to Homelessness

A group of Republican state senators in Washington are backing new laws meant to address homelessness through both a “market-based approach” to building new affordable housing and a “law-and-order” approach to dealing with the behavior of homeless people, according to The Spokesman-Review. Some of the lawmakers were proposing bills reducing impact fees on new construction to reduce the cost of housing, according to the paper, while others were sponsoring rules related to public behavior. One of the proposals “would allow officers to take a person who exhibits ‘poor personal hygiene, unpleasant aroma, unexplained injuries, exposure to elements or other unsafe behavior’ for a 72-hour evaluation. The evaluation would try to determine if they suffer from addiction or mental health issues.”

Other proposals would require prosecutors to charge people who commit “repeated property offenses,” and “set up a special type of guardianship that would allow local governments to appoint a family member or a social worker to be responsible for a homeless individual who needs treatment for addiction or a mental health issue,” according to the report.

“It has to be about law and order, and I don’t say that without compassion,” said State Sen. John Braun, according to the Spokesman-Reviews. “The services do no good if you don’t have rules that you follow within society.”

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: affordable housingwashington dchomelessnessoaklandrenters rightsland trusts

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