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Moms 4 Housing Celebrate Win In Battle Over Vacant House

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Homeless mothers who were evicted after squatting in a vacant house in Oakland, Calif., may have reached an agreement that will allow them to move back in. The group Moms 4 Housing has drawn attention to California's broader housing crisis. And in this case, the real estate investment company that owns the house has agreed to sell. Molly Solomon from member station KQED explains what this will mean.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Whose house?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Mom's house.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Whose house?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Mom's house.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Whose house?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Mom's house.

MOLLY SOLOMON, BYLINE: Outside Oakland City Hall, housing activists celebrated what they consider a victory. Dominique Walker of Moms 4 Housing calls the sale of the house to a community land trust a big win.

DOMINIQUE WALKER: We're just happy. We're ready to buy mom's house. And we're ready to continue this movement.

SOLOMON: Under the agreement, real estate company Wedgewood Inc. would sell the West Oakland home to the Oakland Community Land Trust. Steve King is executive director of the trust. He says his group plans to fix up the home and sell it back to the moms. That way, King says, the house will remain permanently affordable.

STEVE KING: So any time the moms may want to sell, the house would be available to another low-income family, that it's permanently under community control and affordable.

SOLOMON: The parties haven't agreed on a price, but Wedgewood said in a statement that it would not ask for more than the three-bedroom, one-bath home's appraised value. The company declined an interview request. But according to real estate site Zillow, the home's estimated value is just over $630,000. The company bought it earlier this year for half a million dollars at a foreclosure auction.

Oakland's mayor and California's governor helped negotiate the deal, which includes this provision. Wedgewood will also give the land trust the opportunity to purchase all its Oakland properties before putting them on the open market. The real estate company had initially refused to negotiate with the land trust but now maintains it was always open to working out a deal as long as the Moms 4 Housing left the house first.

Following a court order, sheriff's deputies carried out a pre-dawn eviction raid last week and arrested two of the moms. Dominique Walker and Moms 4 Housing vowed to continue pressing elected officials on affordable housing and keeping companies like Wedgewood accountable.

WALKER: We will not stop organizing and fighting until all unhoused folks who want shelter have shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yes.

SOLOMON: Their fight includes pushing California Governor Gavin Newsom to pursue state legislation that would ensure housing as a human right.

For NPR News, I'm Molly Solomon in Oakland.

(SOUNDBITE OF J ROCC'S "STAY FRESH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.