By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
With support from local organizations, Oak Park resident Wanda Clark, whose home was placed into receivership because of its unsafe and dangerous condition, will regain full ownership of her property.
On the morning of the Martin Luther King holiday, a demolition crew rode in with heavy-duty equipment to knock down the dilapidated structure to satisfy an agreement between Clark, Senior Deputy City Attorney Michael J. Benner, and City Manager Howard Chan.
Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council volunteered its time, resources, and manpower to do the work and cover all associated costs. The occasion had Clark smiling and in tears.
“Without these people, I don’t know where I would be today. I’d probably still be under the receivership and not have possession of my land,” Clark told the OBSERVER. “So basically, I have a sweet but bitter win and I am still the landowner of something that I have been paying on for the last 26 years.”
The Sacramento Housing Alliance, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, Lift Up Love Always (LULA), Greater Sacramento Branch of the NAACP, Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council, and city attorneys have been ironing out the details since the end of October to reach a positive outcome.
Peter Lemos, the City’s code compliance chief, said from the onset that the City was “committed” to resolving the issue in Clark’s favor.
Kendra Lewis from Sacramento Housing Alliance said Clark’s story is one of “hope and perseverance” and of the “community coming together” in a desperate time of need. The moment also arrived on a special day of service.
All Clark wanted to do is live the American dream of owning a home, a vision she started in 1995. Federal legislation passed 57 years ago made it possible for her, Lewis said.
“On this MLK holiday, we are reminded that the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is deeply rooted in housing equality, which helped deliver Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act,” Lewis said. “Commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, it prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of housing while opening the door to homeownership and improved living conditions for all Americans — especially Black Americans.”
Clark has worked incredibly hard her entire life but felt she was in a perfect position to support her growing family and house any member that needed shelter.
In 2005, Clark, unknowingly hired an unlicensed contractor to renovate her home and add a second story over the garage to provide additional space for her family members.
The contractor took her money but never completed the work, leaving the house on Washington Street, right off 14th Avenue, open and exposed to the elements.
The house fell into disrepair, and Clark, now 71, did not have the resources to bring it back to a safe, livable condition.
Clark works as a janitor for the County of Sacramento.
In the spring of 2021, the court ruled that Clark’s home would be placed into receivership. The receiver had planned to auction off the home on Nov. 3 if Clark could not pay housing code violations and attorney fees up to $185,000.
Community leaders such as Betty Williams of the local NAACP, LULA founder Rashid Sidqe and other organizations rallied around her to help bring awareness to her situation.
Kevin Ferreira, Executive Director of the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building and Construction Trades Council, said he met with Clark soon after Sidqe brought her plight to his attention.
“I have to be honest,” Ferreira told the OBSERVER. “After talking about it, her story brought me to tears. We do a lot of community work, mostly for veterans with structural damage to their homes. But nothing like this. We think this is a sad story of someone who fell victim to a less-than-a-desirable contractor and caused her a lot of misery.”
Now that the demolition is completed, Lewis said, the collection of the receiver’s fees has been suspended as the city of Sacramento finalizes its program to help prevent displacement in the zip codes around the planned UC Davis Aggie Square Innovation District.
It is expected that the final settlement agreement with the City will be that all costs will be covered by this program. With the assistance of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, “a house could be built in less than a year” for Clark after all the legal matters subside, Ferreira said.
“This is a middle chapter in the ongoing advocacy for Ms. Clark, not the ending,” said Leah Miller, President, and CEO of Habitat for Humanity. “While Ms. Clark is no longer incurring costs and will be able to retain ownership of her land, there is much more to be done.”
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento worked with Clark and her mortgage lender to ensure that she will maintain ownership of her land post-demolition and removal of receivership.
The local NAACP and LULA are actively seeking financial support to help Clark with future residential plans. The public can contribute to this effort by visiting www.naacpsac.com, clicking on the “Donate” link, and mentioning “Wanda Clark Project” in the memo. All of the donations will go to building a long-term housing solution for Clark.
“We encourage others in Sacramento and beyond to connect with Greater Sacramento NAACP to help Ms. Clark achieve a long-term housing solution where she can live in comfort, safety, and with dignity,” Miller said.