The Occupy Oakland general assembly, a day before a proposed general strike, ruled that they would encourage the occupation of foreclosed and abandoned properties across the city. This is a natural development, but also a useful one.
The rush to foreclose has left blighted properties all over the bubble states, serving no productive purpose. The banks have neglected these properties and allowed them to drift into disrepair, sometimes drawing fines from communities like Los Angeles, which passed a blight resolution last year. In fact, some banks are dealing with the problem by demolishing the properties, despite the clear human need for shelter. So if the Occupy movement extends to vacant homes, it creates a living space for people and saves the properties from demolition. What’s more, the dirty secret is that the banks cannot prove ownership on these properties, making it difficult for them to evict the squatters without some chicanery.
The Occupy Vacant Properties movement has been slow going, but has expanded. In California, groups like the Home Defenders League are becoming more aggressive on this front, as in San Francisco, where a family will re-enter and re-claim their home, asserting that they were wrongfully evicted. One story describes a home on Quesada Avenue in the Bayview section of the city that the family built and owned since 1962. Here’s a statement from the homeowner:
My family has been in this neighborhood for 50 years, and since I’ve been evicted, the place has been vacant, like so many homes in the Bayview. Families have been ripped off by banks, scammed by brokers and nothing’s done to them. It’s time for the families and the community to stand up and take back what’s theirs.
This battle, one home at a time, is a powerful reminder of the human costs of foreclosure fraud. The banks stole homes from citizens without due process. The citizenry has been riled up so much that they are taking them back.
Mike Konczal has been following this over the past few weeks. Here’s his latest report. I thought this quote from the head of Springfield No One Leaves, an anti-foreclosure organization in Massachusetts, was great:
I think that (the Occupy Foreclosures movement) exemplifies the importance of two things: community mobilization around eviction defense is a powerful grounds on which we can fight the banks, where our demands with concrete solutions to keep homes occupied comes directly in contrast to banks insistence on vacating homes and destabilizing neighborhoods. Funneling the incredible energy of resistance into existing or new efforts to mobilize eviction defense, demanding to pay rent or principal reduction, not only brings concrete demands to the forefront of that energy, but also mobilizes new leaders for our movements. It’s encouraging to see these two growing and powerful movements supporting and building together.
This is only going to grow.