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Unhoused Mothers in L.A. Take Over Vacant House, Demand Local Gov’t Use Vacant Properties to House People Immediately

DEMOCRACY NOW! - In Los Angeles, a group of unhoused mothers is trying to take over a vacant house and demanding the local government use all publicly owned vacant homes, libraries, recreation centers and other properties to house people immediately. This comes as the coronavirus is putting unhoused people and other vulnerable communities at a higher risk of infection.

Another group of homeless moms and families are taking over a house — this time in L.A.

LA TIMES - Weeks after a group of homeless mothers took over a vacant house in Oakland and managed to keep it, another group of moms is trying to do the same in Los Angeles.

On Saturday morning, the protesters and their families moved into a two-bedroom bungalow in El Sereno. They say they plan to remain indefinitely and potentially take over more houses.

They are calling on state and local governments to use all publicly owned vacant homes, libraries, recreation centers and other properties to house people immediately. They say the region’s extreme lack of affordable housing and the threat of the novel coronavirus pushed them to act.

“I am a mother of two daughters. I need a home,” said Martha Escudero, 42, who has spent the last 18 months living on couches with friends and family members in neighborhoods across East Los Angeles. “There’s these homes that are vacant, and they belong to the community.”

California Seniors Protest Eviction with ‘Walker Brigade’


Inequality . org - Just two days before Thanksgiving, the nearly 100 elderly residents of Brookdale San Pablo received an unfortunate holiday notice – they were going to be evicted. 

Brookdale, which operates around 800 senior living facilities across the United States, had decided not to renew the lease of their San Pablo location, which expired in January — leaving tenants scrambling in the midst of California’s affordable housing crisis. Brookdale’s move, which it called a “portfolio reset” earlier last year, means some tenants are concerned they’ll be moved far from their families and communities. Others are worried about the potential for homelessness given skyrocketing cost of living in the Bay Area. 

In the months since they received the notice, many Brookdale residents have left. But there are still a couple dozen tenants who can’t find anywhere affordable to move. They’re demanding better treatment by Brookdale, which has told them they have until the end of March to move, a local NBC affiliate reports. The residents told NBC they want either a settlement to help them move, or a plan that would allow them to stay in place in their homes. 

Read full article here.

They refused to pay rent for months. Now, it may pay off

The Mercury News - OAKLAND — After refusing to pay rent for four months, tenants striking in Fruitvale say their landlord has agreed to consider selling the building — a potential win for the strikers and their activist backers.


Some renters living in the 29th Avenue complex stopped paying rent in November, both to protest what they say are poor living conditions, and to pressure the owner to sell them the building through a local community land trust. If the bold strategy works, it will be the second recent victory for the group supporting them — Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment — which also helped Moms 4 Housing pressure a corporate landlord to negotiate the sale of the West Oakland home they’d been squatting in.

“Thanks to our fight, we have been heard by the owner of this building,” Maria Montes de Oca, who has lived in the 29th Avenue building for 11 years, said Thursday night before a crowd of several dozen neighbors and supporters. “We are closer than ever to buying this building.”

Read the full article here

Struggling for Shelter: Resistance to California’s Housing Crisis Grows

Counterpunch - In an age of worsening income and wealth inequality, a supply of affordable shelter for workers and their families is low while demand for it is high, the conditions for price-gouging. Just ask Dominique Walker, 34, of Moms 4 Housing, one of the unhoused women who occupied a vacant home in West Oakland that Wedgewood Property Management, a real estate investment company, owned.

Oakland police forcibly removed M4H from that abode; meanwhile, wildcat graduate student strikers at two of the 10 campuses in the University California system are withholding their labor, demanding higher pay for skyrocketing rents.

“We are trying to build a coalition,” Walker, a full-time organizer of the Black Housing Union, a chapter of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), told me. “That effort has resonated with people globally.” Movement politics is the name of this game.

Read full article here

East Bay Seniors Protest Evictions

NBC Bay Area - Some East Bay seniors facing eviction took their protest public Wednesday. They’re the last of what’s left of nearly 100 tenants at San Pablo’s Brookdale Senior-Living Facility who received eviction notices last fall.

Watch full video here

Oakland Tenants On Strike Over Rent Hikes, Shoddy Conditions

CBS Bay Area - Tenants of an Oakland apartment complex were staging a strike to protest rent hikes and the shoddy condition of their living units. But they’re taking it a step further by pressuring the landlords to sell the property so the apartment renters can stay in their homes.

The building, located on 29th Avenue, in Oakland, is the scene of the Bay Area’s latest tenant uprising. Half the residents in the 14-unit complex stopped paying rent four months ago. Francisco Perez says the monthly cost of his one bedroom apartment has doubled to more than $1,500 in just the last 3 years.

“My fear is, OK, this year I can afford it but next year…what am I gonna do?” said Perez.


Striking Oakland renters demand landlord sell building to them

Curbed SF - Tenants of an Oakland apartment building near the Fruitvale neighborhood have stopped paying rent, demanding that their landlord sell them the building for $3.2 million via the Oakland Land Trust nonprofit.

The rent strike is the tenants’ response to what they say are years of rent increases that threaten to push them out.

At the 14-unit building on 29th Avenue, half of the building’s renters are are participating in the standoff that started in October. CBS SF cites one 20-year tenant, who pays $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, which he says has doubled in price over the last three years. This, in part, has prompted fears of eviction in the building and neighborhood in the gentrification.

Read the full article here.

Housing Activists’ Protest Disrupts Valentine Dining at SF Tavern

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Chanting “housing is a human right,” several dozen activists walked into a popular San Francisco restaurant on Friday evening, interrupting patrons’ Valentine dinner to call out the establishment’s landlord as a heartless mega-corporation determined to squeeze renters.

Roughly 60 protesters marched into The Keystone on Fourth Street near Market in downtown San Francisco on Friday. The upscale tavern is in a property owned by Mosser Capital, which also has many other buildings throughout the Bay Area. According to the protesters, corporate greed may force them to move out of their homes. Many in the group live in a property owned by Mosser.

Read full article here

Oakland Tenants Protest Increase in Rent

NBC Bay Area - On the evening of Valentine’s Day, dozens of Oakland tenants and their supporters chose a San Francisco restaurant and hotel owned by their landlord to protest increasing rents.

Mosser, a company that owns more than 80 properties in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, is the landlord of the protesting tenants and owner of the Mosser Hotel. They say the company told them it has to make improvements to their buildings that would allow Mosser to increase their rents.

“It’s real,” said Oakland tenant Angela Shannon. “This kind of stress, it takes a real toll on people’s health and people’s lives. We don’t have to wait until people are on the street to take it seriously.”

Read full article here

Inquilinos en huelga se niegan a pagar la renta hasta que los dueños les vendan la propiedad

Univision 14 - Un grupo de inquilinos en uno de los barrios hispanos de Oakland decidió tomar medidas drásticas para hacerle frente a los aumentos desproporcionados de renta que ellos consideran injustos: no pagar el alquiler por cuatro meses.

La huelga de los arrendatarios comenzó el pasado mes de octubre y los afectados aseguran que continuará de manera indefinida hasta que logren su cometido: una oportunidad para comprar el edificio en el que viven.

Full article here 

Oakland Tenants Go on Strike, Protesting Rising Rents

NBC Bay Area - Unable to keep up with rising rents, tenants of an Oakland apartment building are protesting in a bold way – they’re on a rent strike.

For the past four months, half the tenants of the Oakland property have refused to pay. They hope that by banding together they can afford to keep their homes.

“This is my place,” said rent striker Francisco Perez. “I spent 20 years, a good part of my life.”

Perez takes pride in the apartment he's shared with his wife for the past two decades but said he can no longer keep up with the rising rent. The retired roofer said it's more than doubled in the past five years.

Read full article here.

Oakland tenants refuse to pay rent, demand landlord sell building

The Mercury News - OAKLAND — A group of tenants living in a Fruitvale apartment building haven’t paid their rent since October, and they don’t plan to until their landlord gives them what they want — a chance to buy the building.

The tenants say they went on strike after a series of rent increases and the landlord’s failure to maintain their apartments. Now they refuse to make another payment until the landlord sits down and negotiates a deal that would allow them, with the help of the nonprofit Oakland Community Land Trust, to take over the property on 29th Avenue. Half of the building’s 14 households are participating, and with the strike in its fourth month, their tactics may be working — a tenant rights group says the landlord last week agreed to set up a meeting.

Read full article here. 

Sacramento passed a rent control law. Activists may still demand a ballot initiative in 2020

The Sacramento Bee - 

A city of Sacramento rent control ballot initiative that was considered dead may be making a comeback.

The initiative, which aims to protect tenants from rent hikes and unjust evictions, last year received more than 44,000 signatures from voters, qualifying it for the city ballot in 2020.

But in August, the Sacramento City Council passed a rent control ordinance, and the three proponents who had submitted the ballot measure agreed not to pursue it, Margarita Maldonado, one of the proponents, said at the time.

Maldonado and another proponent, Omega Brewer, sent a letter Oct. 22 to the city clerk authorizing the measure to be withdrawn from the ballot. But the signature of the third proponent, Michelle Pariset, was not included, and Pariset suggested in a news release Tuesday she plans to move forward with the ballot initiative.

Rent Control Proponents Threaten To Sue City Of Sacramento If Measure Not On Primary Ballot

Capradio - There are 47,000 signatures supporting a rent control measure in the city of Sacramento, but the City Council hasn’t put it on the March 2020 ballot. Supporters say they'll sue if it isn't. 

John Shaban with SEIU Local 1021 helped hang a large gray banner on the windows at Tuesday's City Hall meeting. 

"The city has a qualified initiative that has been lawfully submitted,” Shaban said. “The county elections and the city clerk have accepted this initiative. They have 88 days ahead of the next election to place it on the ballot and tell us that they're doing it so that we can run our part of the campaign."

But the Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood says the Council may place charter initiatives before the voters at the next regularly scheduled general municipal election, which is in November 2020. 

Alcala Wood says the council actually has until June 2020 to put it on the ballot.

Read the full article here. 

California moms on frontline of battle against homelessness


Gulf Times - When Dominique Walker moved back from Mississippi to her native California last year, she planned to pursue a nursing degree while caring for her two small children.But she and other moms and their children ended up living as squatters in a bold, high-profile protest against homelessness. And today the 34-year-old has come to symbolise a crisis that has reached historic proportions in one of America’s wealthiest states.

Read the full article here.

This movement is just beginning': homeless moms evicted after taking over vacant house

The Guardian - For almost two months, an unassuming white house on Magnolia Street in Oakland was home for Dominique Walker and her family.

Her one-year-old son, Amir, took his first steps in the living room. He said his first words there, too – “thank you”. Walker’s daughter, Aja, celebrated her fifth birthday in the house.

“We made it a home,” Walker, 34, told the Guardian.

Moms 4 Housing, with Dominique Walker, Aaron Glantz and Carroll Fife

Gimme Shelter Podcast - A group of homeless and housing insecure mothers made national headlines after occupying a vacant home in West Oakland. On this episode of Gimme Shelter, Matt and Liam discuss why the protest was so successful and interview one of the "moms" in Moms 4 Housing.

First, an Avocado of the Fortnight asks whether unvaccinated Californians should count as a terrorist threat (3:00). Then a brand new segment from intern producer Jakob sparks a breakdown on what Moms 4 Housing wanted and how realistic their goals are (6:30). Finally, interviews with Aaron Glantz, author of the book "Homewreckers" who has reported extensively on investment firms buying California homes (22:00); and Moms 4 Housing's Dominique Walker (37:00) and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment's Carroll Fife (37:00).

Column: At L.A. City Hall, victory went to the little guy in battle over rents and evictions

Los Angeles Times - Diana Castellanos and her husband have three daughters, a two-bedroom apartment in South Los Angeles, and two full-time jobs.

But the recent notice of a looming rent increase, from $1,495 to $2,350 a month, left them in a panic.

“It’s already tight,” said Castellanos, a city employee who works as a parking attendant while her husband is assistant manager of a Hollywood theater. “Gas costs more. Food costs more. Clothes cost more.”

The rent hike was as good as an eviction, since they couldn’t afford it. So the family began searching for another place to live, but that was a discouraging adventure here in the land of high rents and flat wages.

Nueva ley de control de renta en California beneficiará a cientos de miles de familias en Los Ángeles

Univision - Más de 1 millón de viviendas en el condado de Los Ángeles podrían entrar dentro de la protección de control de rentas bajo la Ley AB 1482 firmada por el gobernador de California. La nueva normativa no solo controlará el porcentaje de incremento, sino también las reglas de desalojos.

California gets its first statewide rent control, eviction protections

San Francisco Chronicle - .. Amy Schur, campaign director for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action, one of the sponsors of the rent-cap bill, said legislators were finally forced to confront how severe the housing crisis has gotten. About half of renter households in California spend more than a third of their income on housing, which experts consider unaffordable.

Her group, which organizes tenants, canvassed in lawmakers’ neighborhoods and occupied the governor’s office to urge support for renter-protection measures. She said politicians were waking up to the power of 17 million California renters.

“It’s up to the people in our state to stand up to corporate interests and defend consumers,” Schur said.

California will limit rent increases under bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom

LA Times - ... "Sasha Graham of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, an advocacy group for low-income renters that was a key supporter of the bill, told the crowd at the signing event on Tuesday that five years ago she faced a $1,000-a-month rent hike at a Richmond apartment she had been living in for a decade — an increase of more than 150%. When she was able to scrape together the additional money, the landlord evicted her.

Graham said she and her son became homeless for three years while she was working and going to college.

“It is not an overstatement when I say that the Tenant Protection Act of 2019 will literally save lives,” Graham said. “It will prevent millions of families from facing the same kind of outrageous rent increases and unfair evictions that put my son and I on the streets.”

California Governor Signs Law Capping Rent Prices

ESSENCE - California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law on Tuesday that will cap rent increases for certain Californians over the next decade. Proponents of the bill say the legislation will help combat the housing crisis persistent throughout The Golden State.

According to the Associated Press, there are 17 million renters throughout California. Of those, more than half spend 30 percent or more on their monthly housing costs. The fallout from that reality can be seen in the rising numbers of those considered homeless. A recent report states that there has been a 43 percent increase in the last two years.

Black Housing Union Emerges in Oakland

KQED - The leaders of a local nonprofit that helped push a statewide rent cap through the Legislature this month are now focusing on building an African American housing union in Oakland.

About 100 black residents, city leaders and advocates gathered at the West Oakland Branch of the Oakland Public Library on Saturday to discuss ways to fight displacement. It was the second town hall this summer. The first was held in May.

Standing outside the door of the packed room, local resident Maurice Hedgepeth said he came because he has a good job as a truck driver but can't see himself owning a home where he grew up.

"I was just hoping to hear that they were walking down the path of solutions that can help get a lot of us out of this problem," said Hedgepeth.

The meeting focused on educating people about housing rights, including a presentation from the city's Rent Adjustment Board about what sorts of rent hikes are allowable and how to arbitrate illegal increases.

It also focused on the housing discrimination black folks have historically faced in Oakland — such as redlining — with the ultimate goal of mobilizing those who are impacted.

That included informing attendees about strategies that are already at play. For example, the Oakland Community Land Trust "removes land from the speculative market so that it serves low-income residents forever." It is among the organizations that will benefit from $12 million allocated in this year's city budget to create a municipal fund supporting such trusts and limited equity housing cooperatives.

Big Win in Sacramento for Anti Rent-Gouging and Eviction Protections

After years of escalating and brutal displacement driving millions of Californians into poverty or homelessness, today, the California legislature this week passed Assembly Bill 1482 (Chiu) which is now headed to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. If approved by the governor, this could become the strongest anti rent-gouging and just-cause eviction law in the nation.

AB 1482, also known as the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, has been driven in large part by the advocacy of tenant leaders of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and other organizing groups. The bill gives protections to 7 million tenants, covering more tenants than any single tenant protection bill in recent US history. It will cap rent increases statewide at 5 percent plus the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as well as stop unfair evictions by requiring landlords to have a “just cause” for evicting their tenants.

“This victory proves that California’s renters are a force to be reckoned with, and we aren’t done yet. Led by people of color and seniors, the renters most likely to become homeless without these types of protections, ACCE members will keep fighting and keep winning until every single Californian is guaranteed a safe and affordable home,” said Christina Livingston, the executive director of ACCE.