Two homeless moms who took over a house in Oakland lost their legal claim to stay in the home when a judge ruled against them Friday.
The judge ruled that Dominique Walker and others had no valid claim of possession to the Magnolia Street property owned by Wedgewood Properties, and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office will evict the women within five business days.
Wedgewood released a statement Friday, saying in part: "Justice is served. The court’s ruling is the correct legal, moral, and ethical judgment against the squatters that broke-in and illegally occupied the company’s house.
"Wedgewood takes no pleasure in having the sheriff enforce the court’s order to evict the squatters. We urge the squatters to leave voluntarily and peacefully so the company, in cooperation with the non-profit Shelter 37, can renovate the home using at-risk Oakland youth--and provide them with job training as well as share the profits from its sale with Shelter 37 so that other at-risk youth can benefit."
A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office says the last thing they want is a confrontation, especially if there are children in the home involved.
"We're not looking for hostility," Alameda County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ray Kelly said. "We're not looking for a show of force."
The women took over the home after they said they were unable to find permanent housing in the Bay Area, where high-paying tech jobs have exacerbated income inequality and a housing shortage. They also say they’re protesting real estate developers who snap up distressed homes, then leave them empty.
Walker, 34, who has 1- and 5-year-old daughters, said she moved back to her native Oakland from Mississippi last year but could not find a place to live in the pricey market. She said many of the people who used to live in her neighborhood have been forced out by rising 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.”
The company bought the home for $501,000 and took possession days after the women moved in, said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Wedgewood. The 1908 house has one bathroom and is about 1,500 square feet (139 square meters).
Lawyers for Walker argued in court that housing is a right and the court should allow the women to possess the house, particularly because it was vacant for a long time and the alternative would be to send them to the streets.
Many Oakland residents say they are being pushed to the fringes of the Bay Area as they struggle to keep pace with housing costs.
Federal officials said last month that an uptick in the country’s homeless population was driven entirely by a 16% increase in California, where the median price of a home is $500,000. It’s higher in the San Francisco Bay Area.