Oakland residents win longest rent strike in city's history, push landlord to sell property

Luz Pena Image
Friday, July 29, 2022
Oakland residents win longest rent strike in city's history
Oakland residents win the longest rent strike in the city's history and push the landlord to sell the 14-unit property to a nonprofit.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- After a six-year battle and almost two-and-a-half years of not paying rent, the tenants at a 14-unit Oakland building claimed victory over their landlord. Instead of tenants getting evicted, their landlord is no longer involved.

Luz Pena: "What does this victory mean to you and your neighbors?"

Maria Montes de Oca: "Pues esta victoria para mi representa que vamos a poder vivir en paz, tranquilos." (This victory represents that we will be able to live in peace with tranquility.)

Maria Montes and Jesus Alvarez are some of the tenants who've lived in the building for over 15 years.

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Alvarez showed ABC7 News his kitchen sink. It hasn't worked for at least two years and mold is growing. Then his neighbor's bathroom had a leak. His ceiling paid the price. They claimed their landlord refused to make repairs for years. They organized and refused to pay rent.

Oakland Community Land Trust got involved and offered to buy the property.

Luz Pena: "You are saying the landlord never thought that you and your neighbors were going to accomplish this."

Jesus Alvarez: "Claro que no nunca y nunca paso por su mente." (It never crossed his mind.)

Less than month ago, Oakland's community Land Trust purchased the 14-unit building for $3.3 million. These tenants made history with the one of the longest rent strikes in this Oakland's history and now the entire building will turn into affordable housing.

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"We are essentially stabilizing rents where they are at right now and in some cases lowering them a little bit. So, they are set at levels set by the city of Oakland," said Steve King, Executive Director of the Oakland Community Land Trust.

The trust currently has 45 properties and says this is part of a bigger movement to turn private housing into affordable housing.

Also, those tenants will be able to purchase their units in the future.

The East Bay Rental Housing association, which represents about 1600 landlords, says it feels like they are under attack.

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"In some ways, it feels like a different kind of blockbusting, if that makes sense. You can create conditions within a community that force owners out. That is exactly what what's happening," said Derek Barnes, East Bay Rental Housing Association.

The organization that helped tenants, Oakland Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action, says this victory sends a message to other landlords.

"It shows the power of not just persistence but really of organizing. I think that as we move forward coming up with different solutions for housing preservation in Oakland and throughout California, that this important for tenants to rise up and fight back," said Grace Martinez, Director of Oakland ACCE.

ABC7 contacted the former landlord and hasn't heard back. According to Zillow, he purchased the building for $717,000.

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