Richmond Activists Fight Local Slumlord over Squat

19 Feb

In the midst of record foreclosures and houses left empty all over the country, community activists in Richmond have been trying to clean up a blighted house and make it into a home. Now, they face threats of eviction and arrest from Oliver Lawrence, a notorious property speculator and slumlord.

The activists Jeremy Hawthorne, Eris Morna, and Mo Karn contest Lawrence’s right to the property, pointing to years of unpaid taxes and failure to do basic maintenance. “Mr. Lawrence would prefer this house to be an empty blight on the community rather than a home for someone who needs it. We feel that he has no legitimate claim to the property. At a time when people face eviction and foreclosure daily, we must take a stand against speculators and banks who want to keep perfectly good homes standing empty.”p2160167

Oliver Lawrence owns almost 200 properties in Richmond, most of them left empty. He has earned a reputation as a slumlord for his failure to perform even basic maintenance on the homes and buildings he owns. Tired of speculators like Lawrence buying up pieces of the neighborhood and turning them into unoccupied blight, community activists in Battery Park are fighting back. Over the past month, they’ve worked as homesteaders on the property at [address], clearing out weeds, painting, cleaning up glass, and securing the building against possums and rats. The house was well on its way to becoming habitable when Oliver Lawrence ordered the activists to stop work and leave immediately. Residents of Battery Park have complained about Lawrence’s properties before, citing “open vacant buildings” which can attract drug activity and other crime, as well as generally dilapidated appearance. In 2008 Lawrence received over 600 citations for upkeep-related code violations. He is also entangled in a controversy involving City Councilman Hilbert, in which Lawrence allegedly tried to cut a deal to avoid paying fines for his code violations. Oliver Lawrence has owned 2913 Montrose Ave. for 3 years, and he’s made no effort to do anything with the property. We are sick and tired of speculators treating our neighborhoods like commodities, buying buildings and then keeping them deliberately empty. In this time of record foreclosures and evictions, we must take a stand to protect our communities from speculators and banks who would prefer to see houses standing vacant rather than become homes for people who are willing to work hard to take care of them. Don’t let Lawrence turn 2913 Montrose back into a blight! WHO DO YOU WANT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? Oliver Lawrence: – Mr. Lawrence owns almost 200 properties in Richmond, and keeps most of them vacant. – At least one property has burned down due to violation of fire codes, endangering people and nearby buildings. – He received 150 citations for failing to do basic maintenance on his properties in 2007. – In 2008, after promising to clean up his properties, he received over 600 citations. – Many complaints have been lodged against him for his “open vacant buildings”, which attract drug activity, crime, and wild animals. – He has failed to pay property taxes on 2913 Montrose for 3 years. Community Housing Activists: – We have devoted countless hours to landscaping, painting, and cleaning up the area outside 2913 Montrose. – We have cleared broken glass and sealed off areas which provide shelter to vermin and pose a danger to local kids. – We share food and other resources with the community. – We’re friendly and engaged with the neighborhood, and responsive to their concerns. – As residents, we actually care what the property looks like and how it reflects on the community. – We’ve spent our money on renovation expenses which Mr. Lawrence was unwilling to pay for. – We want 2913 Montrose to be a home, not a blight. To watch local news coverage of this struggle go to: For updates on this issue please go to: Contact: Mo Karn – (804) 300-0023


One Response to “Richmond Activists Fight Local Slumlord over Squat”

  1. R July 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    I read about these Anarchists a few months back on a different webpage and the story stuck with me. And in today’s RTD, justice:

    “A judge convicted a Richmond property owner of 16 charges yesterday, bringing to more than 165 his total convictions for failure to meet city property standards.

    Richmond General District Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. found Oliver Lawrence guilty and told him to correct those violations that pose safety hazards by Aug. 14, the day Lawrence is to be sentenced.”

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