Moms 4 Housing property owner hit with $3.5 million settlement

The state has reached a $3.5 million settlement with corporate real estate investor Wedgewood, known for its stand-off with Oakland activists Moms 4 Housing.

The agreement requires the southern California company to revamp its business practices, adhere to stringent state and local renter protections and submit regular compliance reports to the department of justice, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Wednesday. About $2.75 million of the settlement will be paid to tenants unlawfully evicted by Wedgewood across the state.

“As we battle this housing crisis of epic proportion, our housing laws, especially our tenant protections, have never been more vital,” Bonta said. “Unfortunately, even amid this crisis, there are some who pursue profits over the interests of families.”

In a statement, Wedgewood denied any wrongdoing, and said the accusations were based on company actions prior to 2016. The company added that it was “100{d4d1dfc03659490934346f23c59135b993ced5bc8cc26281e129c43fe68630c9} cooperative and transparent” during the state’s five-year investigation.

The attorney general’s announcement follows other, recent state efforts to address the state’s housing crisis — by encouraging production and protecting vulnerable renters during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Bonta last month launched a task force dedicated to enforcing state housing laws against cities that improperly reject residential developments.

Wedgewood owned the West Oakland house occupied by homeless mothers and their children in 2019. The housing activists took over the empty home to highlight the city’s homeless problem and protest the spread of real estate speculation and corporate ownership. They said investors pushed up rents and drove out long-time residents. The group, which drew national attention, squatted illegally in the house for two months before being evicted by sheriff’s officials.