STATEMENT ON MOMS4HOUSING
Office of Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas
Housing is a Human Right, Moms Follow Tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Make Our Laws More Humane
Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Yesterday morning at 5 AM, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the Magnolia Street property in West Oakland in riot gear with rifles and armored vehicles to evict the homeless mothers who had been occupying the house. Moms Tolani King, Misty Cross, and two allies were arrested.
I stand with Moms4Housing who are following the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday we will celebrate this week. Dr. King taught us that sometimes breaking an unjust law is the right thing to do. The moms are engaging in an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to the civil rights issue of our time: housing is a human right.
Yet so many people in Oakland and nationwide don’t have basic shelter. Our laws, systems, and markets -- broken and inadequate -- are stacked against our most vulnerable neighbors, making it incredibly difficult for them to obtain adequate shelter and provide stability and safety for themselves and loved ones.
I do not support anyone breaking into another's home. The moms chose this home because it had been vacant in their neighborhood for two years and was owned by a corporate real estate speculator. They took a path of nonviolent civil disobedience to shelter their children and call attention to a system that continues to leave working families and homeless individuals behind.
Throughout history, what is just, moral, and humane has not always aligned with the law. That is why our legislatures at every level are constantly reviewing, revising, and writing new laws. It was once legal to redline Black communities and families, preventing them from accessing mortgage loans to buy homes, creating a lasting racial home-ownership gap.
These brave mothers have sparked a movement, revealing corporate speculators who profit off of the housing crisis by leaving homes vacant for years. Investors nationwide are purchasing homes at rates higher than ever before; they have bought one in five homes in the bottom third price range, taking away units from first-time, lower-income home buyers.
These moms are on the front lines, changing the dialogue about homelessness, capitalism, morality, and justice, to address the housing affordability and homelessness crises that impact us all. I stand with them because throughout our nation's history, civil disobedience has raised moral issues and built movements to make our laws more humane.
Looking back at this in the future, we will see a critical moment where communities came together to meet the immediate needs of the everyday people most impacted by injustice.
Housing is not a commodity to be bought and sold to maximize profits. We must hold accountable corporate speculators like Wedgewood, who owns the Magnolia Street property, who drive up housing costs, displacement, and homelessness, profiting off the foreclosure crisis. Learn more about Wedgewood’s massive real estate portfolio, home-flipping practices, and the 300+ lawsuits that have occurred primarily over their attempts to evict tenants.
We must see the big picture that informs the moms’ civil disobedience and call to action: While the house sat vacant for two years, homelessness in Oakland increased by 47 percent. At the current rental market rate, one must earn at least $40 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. These rents are simply out of reach for working-class families and individuals. The homes across the street from Mom’s House are selling for $1.5M on average.
How You Can Help
1. Contribute to the moms’ Freedom Fund.
2. Stay updated and get involved with my office’s efforts to increase deeply affordable housing, get investor-owned and abandoned homes into the community, and advocate for the same with your elected officials. Yesterday in Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee meeting we forwarded a Fair Chance Housing Ordinance to the full Council meeting next week to remove barriers to housing for formerly incarcerated individuals in Oakland.
3. Support taking homes off the speculative market and make them permanently affordable. Our $12M Permanent Affordability Fund helps tenants purchase their homes with land trusts and co-ops. If you are a property owner or know neighbors at risk of being displaced due to their building’s imminent sale, a partnership with a Land Trust can save tenants from losing their homes, preserve the building for permanent affordability, and promote community ownership.
Text 510-800-7810 for updates on how to support the Moms.