Turning Blight into Urban Gardens and Homes – OCTOBER 21, 2015


DeCaprio is the head of Land Action, a nonprofit that he created in 2011 to assist tenants with eviction defense. Two months ago, Land Action launched a campaign to build one hundred micro farms in Oakland over the next five years. The farms will be anchored by tiny homes — less than 120 square feet in size — that will house low-income Oakland residents.

The plan hinges on the use of so-called “tax-defaulted property” — land that is worth less than the taxes owed on it. In Alameda County, tax-defaulted parcels typically have been abandoned by their owners and can be publicly auctioned after five years. But attracting buyers willing to pay the back taxes and fines can be challenging.

The program’s mechanism is relatively simple. When a tax-defaulted parcel fails to sell during a public auction, the county can enter into direct negotiations with nonprofits to take control of the parcel. A nonprofit is still required to pay the defaulted taxes, as well as any associated penalties and costs.But the city-county program hit a snag earlier this year when the chief architect of the plan, Margaretta Lin, director of strategic initiatives in Oakland’s Housing and Community Development Department, resigned her position. According to Byrd, the city and county recently started to move forward again, engaging in discussions with organizations such as Hello Housing that are interested in investing in parcels.

So Land Action has circulated a petition online, demanding that Oakland and Alameda County officials eliminate back taxes and penalties on tax-defaulted properties sold to land trusts and give full support to the micro-farm and tiny home campaign. “Historically, these tax-default properties have existed in this legal gray area,” DeCaprio said. “The city just found this one loophole to escape from this conundrum, and we’ll explore that, but I’m more than happy to provide housing and sustainability through direct action.”

He eventually found an abandoned home in Berkeley that he started to refurbish, but his neighbors frequently complained to police about his presence. Unable to afford a lawyer, DeCaprio researched adverse possession so he could represent himself in court. In 2004, he was arrested and ultimately convicted of three misdemeanor counts of unauthorized entry of a dwelling. He eventually moved to West Oakland where he found a new squat, and has remained there ever since. “There’s a lot of abandoned land in Oakland,” DeCaprio said. “I would say there are probably hundreds of properties that are probably tax-defaulted.”It’s difficult to determine the actual number of tax-defaulted

Source: Turning Blight into Urban Gardens and Homes | East Bay Express


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