Dec 15, 2021 - News

Protesters call on UPenn to help save affordable housing complex

A demonstrator holding a sign saying to "Save the Townhomes."
A demonstrator holds a sign calling for the preservation of the University City Townhomes on Tuesday. Photo: Mike D'Onofrio/Axios

University of Pennsylvania students and faculty are demanding the Ivy League school help preserve an affordable rental housing complex near campus.

Driving the news: University groups and West Philadelphia community members demonstrated on campus Tuesday, calling on school officials to condemn the sale of the University City Townhomes.

Context: IBID Associates, the owner of the 70-unit complex at 3990 Market St., didn't renew its affordable housing contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which expires July 2022.

  • The owner intends to sell the property.
  • Its market value is listed as more than $9.5 million, according to the city's website.

What they're saying: Jake Nussbaum, a graduate student at UPenn and a member of the group Police Free Penn, said the university has been "complicit in the erasure and transformation of these neighborhoods to support what their interests are."

  • "We want to defend our neighbors, our fellow Philadelphians from the evils of displacement and the evils that 'Penn-trification' brings," Nussbaum said.

Consuela Astillero, a resident of the complex since it opened in the early 1980s, said she fears she won't find an alternative affordable rental housing unit by the time the complex closes.

  • "It's like we're being kicked out with no consideration," she said.

Zoom out: It's rare for private owners to opt out of their affordable housing contracts, HUD spokesperson Nika Edwards told Axios.

  • When opt-out situations happen, HUD assists residents in relocating to new affordable housing and provides other services.

Of note: IBID and the university didn't respond to Axios' requests for comment.

What to watch: The Philadelphia City Council is weighing a proposal that would put in place a temporary demolition moratorium and affordable housing requirements for the site.

  • The proposal remains stalled.
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