The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board held a meeting Feb. 20 with several presentations, including one honoring Moms 4 Housing activist Dominique Walker with a city of Berkeley proclamation and another naming Feb. 20 as “Moms 4 Housing Day.”
Moms 4 Housing is a movement that started in November 2019 when several unhoused and housing-insecure mothers occupied a vacant home in Oakland to protest the city’s rates of homelessness. The city of Berkeley’s proclamation commended Walker for her part in challenging the role corporations play in gentrification, the housing shortage and homelessness, as well as bringing attention to how the displacement affects school-age children and communities of color.
“Corporations are keeping homes empty, contributing to the false narrative that there is a housing shortage,” said Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board chair Paola Laverde at the meeting. “Moms 4 Housing showed unflinching courage in challenging corporate greed.”
The Northern California Land Trust is housing Walker and her children in Berkeley, and the proclamation welcomed her to the city.
Walker spoke on her pride in living in Oakland alongside activists, and her aim to continue organizing.
“I’ve always prided myself for being from Oakland — the history of resistance, Black resistance in particular,” Walker said at the meeting. “But today I met some elders who have been organizing here since the ’60s, so I’m so happy to be here and organize with them now.”
Following the awarding, the board listened to another special presentation from Anna Cash, program director of the Urban Displacement Project at UC Berkeley, on the ongoing effects of redlining in Berkeley. She spoke on how the racially discriminatory policies of redlining of the past carried over to a present-day disinvestment in neighborhoods with more people of color.
The cycle of disinvestment, according to Cash, has had negative financial, environmental and educational effects on communities of color. For example, formerly redlined areas lack trees and have higher amounts of diesel and gas particulates in the air, which makes urban neighborhoods hotter than average, Cash said.
“Based on 2015 numbers, 75% of low-income Berkeley neighborhoods are at risk of undergoing gentrification,” Cash said at the meeting. “The Black population in Berkeley has fallen from 24% in 1970 to about 9% today.”
Cash outlined the “three P’s” — protection, preservation and production — to combat displacement and other effects of redlining. She said during her presentation that the preservation of existing affordable housing units, the production of new ones and the protection of tenants through rent control and right to counsel are critical strategies.
“In terms of last steps before homelessness, right to counsel can be a really effective preventative measure that, if not at the state level, we should really be taking action on the local level,” Cash said at the meeting.