Everyone wants a safe place to live, but moving into an empty house without the owner’s permission is illegal. It’s theft of private property, but this is exactly what a group of homeless people have done in Oakland, California, and some California legislators are vocally supporting them.
Democratic Senator Nancy Skinner is advocating for the coalition Moms 4 Housing, a group that formed to support two homeless moms who moved into an unoccupied home with their kids.
The city, like many regions of the Bay Area, is experiencing a severe housing shortage. Many locals are edged out of pricey markets by the fast-growing and high-income tech industry. In this case, a mom of two small children moved back to Oakland after living out of state for several years. She was unable to find housing in the highly competitive market, so she illegally moved into a 1,500-square foot house that was vacant.
Another homeless woman and her kids joined her. The building was empty, but it had been recently purchased by Wedgewood, Inc., a real estate investment group that bought it last year at a foreclosure auction. Wedgewood plans to renovate the home and resell it.
“Housing is a human right. I pay bills there. I pay water, PG&E, internet. We live there,” said Dominique Walker, one of the squatters. “We want to purchase the home…it needs to belong back in the hands of the community. It was stolen through the foreclosure crisis.”
As of this writing, a judge has tentatively ruled in favor of Wedgewood. Private property rights need to be upheld in this case, even though single mothers and small children are involved. If the judicial system allows vacant homes to be taken over by anyone who breaks in and buys a couch, then our country’s foundation of private property rights will suffer a major blow.
It’s unfortunate that these two families don’t have homes, but their plight is not unique, nor is it the government’s responsibility to solve their current crisis. Many California families are selling their homes and moving out of state as the cost of living exceeds their income. There are legal, responsible, forward-thinking choices to make. The moms could move someplace cheaper.
They could stay with a friend or family member until they are financially independent. They could stay in a homeless shelter. They should not be allowed to illegally stay in an empty house where they pay neither a mortgage nor rent.
Handing houses out to homeless people without any qualifying financial criteria discredits all the hardworking homeowners in America. The path to homeownership is challenging for a reason. It’s a lengthy road paved with a healthy credit score, a down payment, and an understanding of the 15 to 13-year commitment for a reason.
The economic recession of 2008 was largely caused by banks overextending mortgages to people who couldn’t afford the cost and subsequently defaulted on their loans. Wedgewood Inc. is attempting to follow the proper channels by fixing up the home and selling it to citizens with the means to maintain the structure.
The Bay Area’s housing crisis needs to be addressed, but taking private property away from lawful owners and redistributing it to freeloaders is not the solution. Let’s hope the judge decides in favor of Wedgewood and scores a victory for private property rights everywhere.