University City Townhomes video: Philadelphia housing activists defend encampment

As the deadline to vacate the West Philly affordable housing complex nears, activists vow to continue pressing for a better plan.

University City Townhomes resident Amira Brown

Shae Tyler / WHYY

The encampment outside the University City Townhomes is preparing for a teardown after a Thursday hearing ended with a judge ruling the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office could break up the protest as early as Monday morning. But housing activists aren’t stopping their fight, vowing to set up elsewhere until demands are met.

“We’ve been doing stuff for like 9 months,” said resident Amira Brown, who said she’d lived in the complex for 19 years and raised her grandchildren there. “We’ve been trying to get a meeting with the owner but he won’t meet us. So this is what we have to do.”

Tents have been set up on the lawn outside the West Philly apartment complex at 40th and Market streets since early July as a protest against residents’ pending displacement.

Nearly 70 families live at the property, owned by IBID Associates and managed by Altman Management, which is ending a decades-long affordable housing contract. After a two-month extension, the federal subsidy expires Sept. 7, when current tenants must depart.

Residents worry they won’t be able to find other housing by the move-out date, because many landlords won’t take federal vouchers, and the city has a shortage of affordable units for rent. They also note that being forced to leave the townhomes would disrupt their lives and their children’s. The townhomes are located just blocks from grocery and convenience stores, healthcare centers, and even a public library.

The complex is situated within what was once called the Black Bottom, a working-class, majority Black neighborhood that was gradually subsumed into University City as Penn and Drexel expanded their campuses.

“This is one of the last standing properties of the Black Bottom,” said resident and spokesperson for the Save the UC Townhomes Coalition Darlene Foreman. “That’s why it’s so important to us,” she said. “Plus, it’s our home.”

Hear more from Brown and Foreman, and Councilmember Derek Green, in the video below.

 


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