Like everywhere in the Bay Area, home prices in Oakland have recently gone through the roof. The price of a house there is up almost 70 percent in the past two years. But West Oakland resident Steve DeCaprio has discovered an unusual way to acquire a home for free. DeCaprio has become an expert in finding and taking over abandoned homes – and it’s not as illegal as it might sound.
Just after midnight in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, two men smoke cigarettes outside the gate of an abandoned school. They’re waiting for the right moment to break in.
“We’re looking to gain entry to a long-vacant private commercial building that’s been vacant at least four years,” says Matt Crain. “Tonight what we’re going to do is just go in through the back. I’m going to pick a padlock that’s on a side gate of the place, and if that goes smoothly then we’ll proceed to the back and see if there’s an open door or an open window, and just proceed from there.”
This Saturday, the Occupy Oakland movement plans to take over an empty building to create a center for like-minded people. Whether or not the movement can hold onto the space is up in the air, but one need only look to the Netherlands for a possible glimpse of things to come.