Just after 5 a.m. on Jan. 14, about 30 deputies from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office arrived at 2928 Magnolia St. in West Oakland. They came armed with rifles and a tank-like armored vehicle. Some deputies were dressed in camouflage fatigues. Their objective: Evict four mothers and their children from the three-bedroom house.

They call themselves Moms 4 Housing. During their occupation, they cleaned up the home. Community members donated furniture. They were later joined in the home by two more Black homeless mothers named Tolani King and Misty Cross. 

The occupation was always about more than just putting a roof over their heads. It was also a campaign to call attention to the role housing speculation was playing in Oakland’s gentrification, displacement, and homelessness crisis. The house on Magnolia Street had been bought for $501,000 in August by Wedgewood Properties, one of Oakland’s most prolific home flippers. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Wedgewood had rehabbed and sold about 160 homes there in the past nine years.

But the eviction is not the end of the Moms’ story. In a surprise twist, they could end up living in the Magnolia Street home legally. At the behest of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Wedgewood is negotiating the sale of the house to a nonprofit called Oakland Community Land Trust for no more than its appraised value.

Under the agreement, Oakland CLT would take the house off the open market to ensure it is sold or rented at below-market rates to low-income residents in perpetuity. Land trusts keep housing affordable by separating the cost of the home from the cost of the land.

 

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