Law enforcement expected to break up UC Townhomes encampment in coming days, as protesters hold their ground

A sign that reads

Those seeking to join the encampment must follow a set of rules created by the residents and get to know the community before setting up. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

The University City Townhomes protest encampment in West Philadelphia is set to be removed following a court order, but residents say they will continue to protect the site.

The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas ordered the encampment’s end last Friday. Law enforcement is expected to break it up within the coming days.

Darlene Foreman has lived at UC Townhomes for 28 years.

“The sheriffs haven’t come yet,” Foreman said. “I don’t know what the delay is. They were supposed to be here on Wednesday.”

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“Of course, we’re going to protect our encampment, you know, because just to get a message out, to let people know that these residents here can possibly wind up like that,” she added as she gestured at the tents on the property. “And we don’t want to wind up in tents or homeless.”

Residents and activists have been protesting the potential sale and redevelopment of the complex. Last July, property owner IBID/Altman Management announced it wouldn’t renew their HUD contract and is looking to place the lots on the market. Industry estimates put the likely sale price near $100 million. According to the Save the UC Townhomes Coalition, 68 families could be impacted.

In a statement emailed to WHYY, IBID says after notices were ignored for the encampment to leave the property, the property owners filed an Ejectment action in Common Pleas Court to have it removed. Read the full statement below:

“After making it clear to the trespassers that they needed to leave the property- and after these notices were ignored — the property owners filed an Ejectment action in Common Pleas Court to have them removed. Following the issuance of a removal order by the judge, the owners were requested to seek the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office to enforce the order.

“Enforcement of the order at this point rests with the Sheriff. Neither the owners nor their counsel have been told when the order will be enforced.”

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The encampment has been operational for 20 days. Residents say they have been deprived of rental services since it began, such as the laundry room and office both being closed. Foreman says the landlord still hasn’t met with them to discuss the situation.

“We started this fight nine months ago,” Foreman said. “He doesn’t communicate with the residents at all and I think that is so unfair. I think that is so disrespectful because we are people just like him.”

In early March, IBID filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier after City Council passed legislation that temporarily bars developers from demolishing the complex. Gauthier released a statement Wednesday regarding the recent court order.

“I care deeply for the residents of this community, and for their continued access to high-quality affordable housing options,” Gauthier said in a statement. “I recognize the activists’ reactions regarding the recent lawsuit filed by Brett Altman and IBID, and the judge’s order to remove the protest encampment at the site. However, I want to be very clear: my office has absolutely no jurisdiction or say over the courts or over any actions removing the protest encampment from the property. Any suggestion to the contrary is both misleading and irresponsible.”

The townhomes are situated in University City, what was once a majority-Black neighborhood known as the Black Bottom. Concerns over gentrification have risen over time as the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University have expanded their campuses.

Located on Market Street between 39th and 40th streets, the UC Townhomes property houses 70 units that for 40 years were offered as federally subsidized housing.

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