New Law Aims To Increase CA Home Ownership

CALIFORNIA — A bill prompted by the Moms 4 Housing occupation of a vacant West Oakland home late last year and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this week aims to increase homeownership in the state.

Senate Bill 1079, introduced by state Senate Majority Whip Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, requires foreclosed homes to be sold individually at auction rather than bundled and sold to a single buyer.

Following the Great Recession, corporations snatched up large numbers of homes in bundled foreclosure sales.

Between 2006 and 2012, the number of owner-occupied single-family homes in California dropped by 320,000, while the number of renter-occupied single-family homes jumped by 720,000, according to the senator’s office.

“SB 1079 sends a clear message to Wall Street: California homes are not yours to gobble up; we won’t tolerate another corporate takeover of housing,” Skinner said in a statement.

Four homeless women in late 2019 moved themselves into a vacant West Oakland home owned by Wedgewood Properties and refused to leave until they were evicted in January. The occupancy brought national attention to the issue of homes left vacant by corporations while many people go homeless. Following court hearings and the eviction, Wedgewood agreed to sell the home to the Oakland Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that buys properties and converts them into affordable housing.

SB 1079 will also allow cities to fine corporations up to $2,000 a day on a property that is blighted.

Many properties were left blighted following the housing crisis and the Great Recession. “Corporations that do own homes, need to be good neighbors and keep those homes maintained and occupied,” Skinner added.

In addition to prohibiting the bundling of homes at auction, the bill gives tenants, families, affordable housing nonprofits, community land trusts and local governments 45 days to make a bid higher than the initial bids on the property.

The provisions of the bill apply to residential properties with one to four units. The bill goes into effect on Jan. 1 and sunsets in five years.

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