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For almost two months, an unassuming white house on Magnolia Street in Oakland was home for Dominique Walker and her family.
Her one-year-old son, Amir, took his first steps in the living room. He said his first words there, too – “thank you”. Walker’s daughter, Aja, celebrated her fifth birthday in the house.
“We made it a home,” Walker, 34, told the Guardian.
They made it their home when they entered the vacant structure on 18 November with the intent to stay, knowing full well that they neither owned the house nor had an agreement to lease it. But a city grappling with a housing crisis that has priced out far too many cannot afford to allow houses like the one on Magnolia to sit vacant, Walker said. In Oakland, more than 15,500 units are vacant, according to the latest US census bureau data, while 4,071 people are homeless.