Home-flipping company evicts homeless Oakland mothers and their children
January 19, 2020 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Oakland’s Moms 4 Housing Were Evicted by a Giant Corporation That Runs National Home-Flipping Operation "But where housing activists once faced off against major banks, they’re increasingly coming up against faceless corporations operating with even less transparency. The West Oakland home occupied by Moms 4 Housing was purchased at a foreclosure auction by a subsidiary of Wedgewood Properties, a home-flipping giant that does business nationwide through an alphabet-soup of companies such as HMC Assets LLC and FI-337 LLC." posted by ziggly (19 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is going to be a bigger and bigger issue, because digital real estate data, digital photos and gig economy services make it so much easier to be a remote landlord.

It's not just big companies, either: there are now real estate brokers that specialize in selling cheap properties in second tier cities to investors based elsewhere. And services that will tell them literally to the dollar what to ask for rent based on surveys of nearby owners.
posted by smelendez at 12:40 PM on January 19 [8 favorites]


If a regular landlord vs "Giant Corporation" owned that home, these mom's would have likely been arrested immediately for trespassing, because a local homeowner is more likely to notice squatters in their empty house vs "faceless corporations" which might not notice until the squatters have been there 30 days and therefore require to be evicted instead of just getting immediately tossed. Not sure how it works in other states, but in CA anyone in your home for 30 days (even if they committed a crime to be there) is a tenant.
posted by sideshow at 12:42 PM on January 19 [4 favorites]


Did they really need riot gear and AR-15s to arrest these women?
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:56 PM on January 19 [20 favorites]


one fun thing about wedgewood properties is that its owner, greg geiser, is a board member of PragerU, an outfit that makes a series of slickly produced widely-viewed alt-right/white supremacist youtube videos. See
The Suicide of Europe if you’d like a representative sample of their material. prager has gotten a staggering number of views (well into the billions), and they’re a key link in the youtube suggested videos chain that leads relatively sane conservatives/centrists/apolitical doofs farther and farther into alt-right/neonazi content. (geiser’s connection to prager is mentioned in the huffpo article from the original post; this article also has a longer discussion about the wedgewood ownerships’ connections to the republican party and other radical right-wing organizations).

with regard to the tactics and equipment used by the alameda county sheriff’s department: around 7:00 pm the previous night they had showed up with a locksmith, but found about 25 protestors who volunteered as arrestable barring the entrance to the house, plus about 50 other protestors out on the sidewalk (folks who support the moms but who intended to avoid arrest). immediately after the police showed up on the block, a text alert went out and several hundred additional people got to the house within five minutes.

the second raid took place at about 5:00 in the morning, while there were only a handful of moms4housing supporters stationed at the house. when the text call went out the second time, about 30 or 40 people were able to get to there, but by the time they arrived the police had successfully barricaded the streets around the house and battered down the momshouse door.

the reason, the sheriffs department claims, for the armored personnel carriers and the ar-15s was that they were afraid that there would be booby traps inside the house. this is also, they claim, why they had a remote-control robot enter the house before any of the cops themselves went inside. no one has offered any adequate explanation of why the police were wearing military-style camouflage fatigues.

fortunately none of the kids were sleeping there that night.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:00 PM on January 19 [29 favorites]


> If a regular landlord vs "Giant Corporation" owned that home, these mom's would have likely been arrested immediately for trespassing, because a local homeowner is more likely to notice squatters in their empty house vs "faceless corporations" which might not notice.

this was an act of civil disobedience, not an attempt to claim the house without wedgewood or the city noticing. the press were immediately notified when the moms moved into the house, and their social media presence went live that night.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:15 PM on January 19 [12 favorites]


Ok.

My point still stands. In fact, your update makes it stronger. If squatters broke into my rental and had a social media presence to go “live”, the Sheriffs would be there that night to arrest the trespassers since I wouldn’t even need to drive by and notice said squatters.

Someone at Wedgewood was asleep at the wheel if things got to the point where an eviction was required.

Edit: although, since the rental was empty in the first place, I guess we aren’t talking about savvy business people.
posted by sideshow at 5:40 PM on January 19


Cool thanks for your update I take it you think the rental protections are too much? That's a weak ass take if so and you ought to rethink that terrible position.
posted by Carillon at 5:57 PM on January 19 [11 favorites]


> If squatters broke into my rental and had a social media presence to go “live”, the Sheriffs would be there that night to arrest the trespassers since I wouldn’t even need to drive by and notice said squatters.

again, i don’t see why you keep bringing up this hypothetical — a hypothetical that in no way relates to the matter at hand. wedgewood knew about the act of civil disobedience precisely as quickly as you would know about someone moving into a property that you get rental income from.

it isn’t that they weren’t immediately evicted because of an oversight by wedgewood or the police. the city didn’t move to immediately evict them because of an immediate groundswell of public support for them — notably, oakland mayor libby schaaf, who is by no means a leftist, has issued public statements in favor of the moms, and members of the oakland city council are moving legislation to give the city the right of first refusal on foreclosed properties (which would nicely undermine wedgewood’s
business model).

it is noteworthy that the organization which eventually evicted the moms was the county sheriff’s department, which is not under the control of the city government.

> Edit: although, since the rental was empty in the first place, I guess we aren’t talking about savvy business people

the business model that wedgewood and similar companies use makes keeping units empty more profitable than renting them out — because the market is so pressured, the value of an empty house n months or years from now is higher than the value of a house with renters. one nice thing about the strategy they’re running is that the more companies use it, the more profitable it is. it establishes a vicious cycle (or, from the perspective of property owning companies, a virtuous cycle) wherein companies keeping units off the market increases demand, which drives up prices, which makes it more profitable to keep units off the market, rinse, lather, repeat.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:02 PM on January 19 [29 favorites]


I've been looking for a 1950s house to restore, to move into when we sell the big house when we become empty nesters. I figured I might rent it once it was restored, depending on time lines. I tell you that story, so I could tell you this one; I was invited to an "investors" seminar, which I thought was going to be about managing tax liability, insurance, etc, for becoming a landlord. What it was, I can only compare to the high pressure sales modality used to move timeshare units. I mean, nobody was actually selling anything, but the whole seminar was about how to create a business entity like what wedgewood and simulacra are doing.

It was about how to buy distressed property, make it "look" acceptable, and flipping it before the shoddy construction fell down, or rolling it into rental properties for distressed communities at obscene rates. And this room full of MBA types were eating it up, taking notes, and now, I tell you what, I'm not sure I'd buy a house that hadn't been owned by the same people for a long time. One of the topics covered, was that depending on your cash flow, it made "more financial sense" to let properties sit unoccupied in high need zones, so as to further drive up prices.

This is an unacceptable business model. It is just time to drive the dagger into the cold unfeeling heart of capitalism.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:59 PM on January 19 [43 favorites]


It seems like every time the idea of enacting regulations to keep things like what SecretAgentSockPuppet is talking about, all sorts of people (the ones profiting on how things are, for example) start screaming about the "nanny state" which in turn makes people who conflate real estate scams, insurance gouging, and the idea that restaurants should have to show nutrition information, and everyone starts freaking out about socialism.

Here's the thing: why do kids need a nanny? Why do kids need an adult to watch them? Because kids, unattended, will burn the fucking house down. When do kids no longer need a nanny? When they can show that, left unattended, they won't burn the fucking house down.

So far, we've seen that people (with profit as a motive) can't be trusted with: healthcare, housing, public transportation, the environment, education, worker safety... I mean, the list could go on (and on, and on). Goddamn right these industries need a fucking nanny that will sit them down and make them think about what they've done.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:13 PM on January 19 [54 favorites]


This last year I’ve started getting letters and texts from “investors” inquiring if we want to sell. I have wondered if they are getting contact information from the county or buying it from some source like the credit agencies, probably for the whole zip code. Either way, the language of the letters makes it clear they are looking for owners who are in distress and will accept a low offer. It’s always written as if it is from an individual but who knows if that is actually the case.

Combined with the strategies to push up rents, it is a really gross strategy. People deserve better than that; predatory behavior is exactly why we need stronger regulations and enforcement.

(The white supremacy connection is the icing on this shit cake, too.)
posted by Dip Flash at 8:58 PM on January 19 [8 favorites]


If squatters broke into my rental and had a social media presence to go “live”, the Sheriffs would be there that night to arrest the trespassers since I wouldn’t even need to drive by and notice said squatters.

If the facts were entirely different I would win this argument, I say confidently
posted by Carillon at 10:02 PM on January 19 [19 favorites]


Vacancy taxes are a thing. Would they work to disrupt this business model?
posted by nat at 10:57 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Vacancy taxes are a thing. Would they work to disrupt this business model?

The place was foreclosed on last year for not paying mortgage and taxes so in this case it wouldn't have made a difference. The Mom's were protesting a known predatory corporation buying up these properties. And it sounds like the city listened. Oakland very much does not want to go the way of SF with people forced to move away over unaffordable housing nor have to deal with some of the pushy high end developers and attendant problems (ex:the listing tower of SF). It's good to see the mayor and residents united on this.
posted by fshgrl at 11:34 PM on January 19 [5 favorites]


My reason for really hating distant and disembodied real estate owners is that in my neighborhood they took this and made it into this. Not being satisfied with the dump they took on a remote-from-them historical facade they then decided that even the remaining historical facade was cost inefficient and have been threatening to get rid it.

That's the kind of crap you can pull when you don't have to see it and don't care about it because you live thousands of miles away.
posted by srboisvert at 5:34 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


Moms 4 Housing victory: Group gets chance to buy house through nonprofit

A poignant reminder on Martin Luther King Day that non-violent civil disobedience works.
posted by Frayed Knot at 9:41 AM on January 20 [11 favorites]


This last year I’ve started getting letters and texts from “investors” inquiring if we want to sell.

Me too, plus phone calls, telemarketing ban notwithstanding.

We have no intention of selling our primary (and only, thank you) residence, so we just quote them a fair market price and they usually hang up.
posted by Gelatin at 9:44 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


aoc talking about moms4housing and discussing the importance of direct action. moms content starts at about 40 seconds in...

(quote: "the ballot box very often is the thing that moves last.")
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:21 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]


(also note that this is aoc in conversation with ta-nehisi coates so uh there's just so much awesome in that clip basically)
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:39 PM on January 20


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