Housing Stands Empty? Desperate Homeless May Change That

Abandoned mid-20th century 2-story dark red brick school with some borded up windows
Long-disused Gault Middle School, Tacoma, Washington, seized by Tacoma Housing Now in November 2020.

Moms 4 Housing invaded a vacant Oakland, California home a year and a half ago, targeting the “housing bankers”1 who owned it. At affordablehousingaction.org, we initially thought their action was mis-directed. There are few laws to prevent housing and land speculators from buying property and holding it off the market indefinitely in order to maximize their profits. Governments may be responsible for providing shelter for all, but not private enterprise burden.

We anticipated a fairly immediate ejection of the trespassing moms with little or no individual or community impact.

Bad call on our part. The event created international headlines, and in the end it achieved significant gains for the homeless moms, together with a growing awareness of housing that is being held vacant in quantities everywhere, while thousands remain homeless2.

Was this beginning of a national trend in America, fuelled by the desperation of people who are homeless and their activist supporters? The following articles suggest the roots run back a bit further and are spread across the country.

Read more in The Christian Century: Homeless people get organized—and radical and STREETSENSEMEDIA: Housing activism turns confrontational in face of deepening housing crisis

Footnotes

  1. Land banking is a fairly old term to describe housing industry speculator action to buy up empty or disused land within and around communities for use in new construction developments, both residential and commercial, sometimes decades later. Increasingly, viable housing is also purchased and banked, often held empty to the convenience of the speculators who own it.
  2. A review of some of the Mom’s 4 Housing drama and its consequences:
    Oakland Carpe Diem: When “Seize The Day” Became “Seize The Empty House” and Evicted Oakland Squatter-Moms Buy That Vacant House — Updated

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