Mar 31, 2022 - News

Effort to sell Philly affordable housing complex on hold — for now

University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia

The University City Townhomes in West Philadelphia. Photo: Taylor Allen/Axios

Philadelphia scored a minor victory this week in its fight to preserve affordable housing units in a West Philadelphia complex that's at risk of being put up for sale.

Driving the news: A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request from the complex's owner, IBID Associates Limited Partnership, to issue a temporary restraining order to prohibit the city from enforcing a demolition moratorium and affordable housing requirements.

  • The decision essentially halts efforts to sell University City Townhomes, a 2.6-acre property in University City.

Why it matters: The potential loss of the complex has caused a stir in the community, where gentrification continues to push westward.

  • The complex was built to provide affordable housing in the once historically Black neighborhood, known as the Black Bottom.
  • Some worry that its potential sale will displace residents and limit affordable housing options at a time when rents and housing prices are skyrocketing, and home construction is failing to keep up with demand.

Catch up fast: Last year, IBID chose not to renew its 40-year federal affordable housing contract, which will end in July, in favor of selling the 70-unit complex at 3900 Market St.

  • City Council passed legislation this month that places a demolition moratorium and affordable housing requirements at the site.
  • IBID responded by filing a lawsuit against the city and City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who proposed the measures.

Between the lines: IBID's lawsuit accuses Gauthier of abusing her "position and power to coerce a private entity to forgo its constitutional property rights while footing the bill for her unreasonable demands."

  • IBID also alleges in its lawsuit that the legislation was intended to torpedo the sale of the complex by effectively destroying the commercial value of the property.

Of note: IBID intends to sell the property to make way for a research, development and life-sciences complex or a luxury housing center, all of which are consistent with the existing zoning, according to court documents.

What they're saying: The sale is "on hold because of the legislation,” David Pittinsky, an attorney for IBID, tells Axios.

  • Pittinsky declined to comment about whether IBID is still aiming to end its federal affordable housing contract in July.

The other side: Gauthier tells Axios in a statement, "We remain optimistic as we continue the process of defending the city’s right to encourage the development of affordable housing in amenity-rich areas."

What’s next: The next court hearing is scheduled for May, when the federal judge will consider IBID's request to place an injunction on the enforcement of the bill.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more