Affordable Housing residents speak out at Sunday’s rally

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After seven years on the waiting list, Krystal Young and her daughter moved into the first place she thought she could call home: an apartment at University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia.

She felt secure, proud of her daughter’s excellence at her new school, and dared to dream that the housing stability she had found could be the first step towards home ownership. She hadn’t imagined that, three and a half years later, she would be standing on a podium outside the building, pleading with lawmakers and developers not to allow the building to be bulldozed for new development.

“If I don’t defend my cause and that of my daughter, who will? Young told the crowd gathered outside the affordable housing complex on Sunday afternoon.

Residents, housing advocates and faith leaders gathered outside the red and brown brick property at the corner of Market and 40th streets to call on the city, politicians and nearby universities to protect affordable housing in Philadelphia and to keep the residents of the Unit 70 building from being evicted.

“Philadelphia won’t be okay if you treat UC townhouses badly,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that organizes faith leaders nationwide to advocate for housing, education, health care, and racial equity in underserved communities.

READ MORE: Residents of UC Townhomes issue demands, including new property to protect their homes

After maintaining UC Townhomes as low-income housing for approximately 40 years, landlord IBID Associates did not renew its affordable housing contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and in 2021 informed residents of its intention to sell the 3900 Market St. property to a developer. The departure deadline for residents, which has been extended several times, is currently October 7.

The IBID decision has sparked outrage among residents, many of whom have lived in UC Townhomes for decades, and among housing advocates, who fear the property could be the first of many in Philadelphia to be lost. its affordable housing status in the years to come.

Philadelphia City Council member Jamie Gauthier tried to intervene on behalf of residents and, when negotiations stalled, introduced a bill to stop demolition and protect affordable housing in future developments. IBID sued Gauthier and the city for “violating his constitutional right” to sell.

On Sunday, Barber accused developers of building properties with public funds, only to sell them when the market opportunity arises.

“It should be the model for building, not destroying,” he said of UC Townhomes.

Residents benefit from a nearby grocery store, world-class hospital, public transportation, and growing businesses — neighborhood amenities that aren’t always available to people who live in housing in the section. 8, but which should be, he said.

A spokesperson for IBID Associates declined to comment on Sunday.

READ MORE: Why college townhouses are really disappearing — and why it might happen again

Barber was joined by other religious leaders and residents, who took turns speaking at a podium surrounded by hand-painted banners that read “Housing is a human right”, “Stop displacement, invest in our communities” and “Our city is not for sale”. .”

They urged city leaders, state and national politicians, and academic institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to advocate for UC townhouses to be maintained as affordable housing — perhaps by paying money to buy the property on behalf of the residents.

They referenced biblical passages about community and helping those in need, and invoked Martin Luther King Jr’s quote: “Whatever affects someone directly, affects everyone indirectly.”

Kevin Lessard, spokesman for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city supports the creation of affordable housing as well as IBID’s right to sell and develop its property.

“Affordable housing is and always has been a priority for the Kenney administration,” Lessard said.

Yet, he said, “needs outweigh resources”.

Residents of UC Townhomes have been offered housing vouchers from the Philadelphia Housing Authority to help them find other affordable housing.

But on Sunday, residents said they did not want to live anywhere else.

“Where are we supposed to go? said Darlene Foreman, who has lived at UC Townhomes for 29 years.

She raised three children there. All are now adults, have moved on and are “doing great,” Foreman said.

“It’s because they had stable housing,” she added.

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