UC Townhomes residents may have more time to move
It’s part of the reason why Alexander said she’s been saving everything she can. She also doesn’t have any close family to stay with if she finds herself without a voucher and nowhere to go.
“I don’t have a backup plan. I don’t have a Plan B. It’s sink or swim for me and my daughter,” said Alexander.
Many of her neighbors are also operating without a safety net, she said.
IBID has hired a company to provide on-site assistance with identifying alternative places to live. The company is also helping to cover relocation costs.
IBID’s request for a contract extension comes as it continues to fight for the right to sell the blocklong complex, which sits in the same swiftly gentrifying section of West Philadelphia that the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University call home. The valuable land has already drawn attention from real estate companies that focus on developing lab and manufacturing space for life sciences companies, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal.
In early March, IBID filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Councilmember Jaime Gauthier after City Council passed legislation that temporarily bars developers from demolishing the complex.
The bill, introduced by Gauthier and backed by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, also rezoned the land so developers are required to build some affordable housing on the site containing the complex. The rents for those units must be below market rate.
In its complaint, lawyers for IBID argue the legislation violates its “constitutionally protected right” to sell the complex.
Gauthier, one of the council’s fiercest housing advocates, has called IBID’s decision not to renew its affordable housing contract a “grave injustice,” particularly given the site’s history.
With backing from the government, IBID built University City Townhomes with the explicit goal of providing affordable housing in a section of West Philly some still refer to as the Black Bottom. This after the city demolished hundreds of neighborhood homes in the late 1960s and early 1970s to make way for a science and technology campus — what today is known as the University Science Center.
“In my eyes, it’s an injustice to simply stand by and watch while low-income people, working-class people, and people of color in amenity-rich neighborhoods across our city, neighborhoods that these Philadelphians and their families helped build over generations, are pushed out,” said Gauthier before her bill passed.
Attorney David Pittinsky, who is representing IBID, said Wednesday the company continues to push for a temporary restraining order that would effectively block Gauthier’s legislation from being enforced.
It could be months before that part of the case is resolved.