Parker’s budget proposal includes funding to replace units lost at UC Townhomes site

The mayor’s initial spending plan did not include city funding for the new 70-unit development in West Philadelphia.

Listen 1:06
Demolition of the housing project

Demolition of the UC Townhomes in March of 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Have a question about Philly’s neighborhoods or the systems that shape them? PlanPhilly reporters want to hear from you! Ask us a question or send us a story idea you think we should cover.

Philadelphia’s next budget is now expected to include $14 million for an affordable housing development tied to a touted legal settlement reached last year.

Funding for the 70-unit project in West Philadelphia was not initially included in Mayor Cherelle Parker’s first budget proposal. The money was added during the administration’s budget negotiations with City Council, which wrapped up early Thursday morning after the council’s Committee of the Whole advanced the $6.37 billion plan.

“It’s extremely important to us because we needed to drive those dollars to that project for the preservation of affordable housing,” said Parker during a news conference hours later.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The development will sit on a section of valuable land previously occupied by the University City Townhomes, an affordable housing complex at 39th and Market streets that was recently demolished after more than 40 years. The development was dismantled after IBID Associates decided not to renew its affordable housing contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a move that required nearly 70 tenants to relocate.

The new units would effectively replace what was lost. They are part of an agreement between the city and IBID that requires IBID to donate part of the site for the development. The settlement ended a federal lawsuit IBID filed in March 2022 after City Council passed legislation that temporarily barred the company from demolishing the townhomes, a measure it deemed unconstitutional.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority has expressed interest in building the units but said it needed city funding to “offset the cost of redevelopment.”

A PHA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, who pushed for the new development, is thrilled the development is back on track. The full council must still pass Parker’s budget, but it is very unlikely the project’s funding will be stripped between now and then.

“I look forward to welcoming back the working-class, Black and brown families that have called this place home since it was known as the Black Bottom,” said Gauthier in a statement.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

With backing from the government, IBID built the University City Townhomes with the explicit goal of providing affordable housing in this section of West Philadelphia. This was after the city demolished hundreds of neighborhood homes in the late 1960s and 1970s to build a science and technology campus — what today is known as the University City Science Center.

The roughly 3-acre site, once home to predominantly Black families, sits in the same swiftly gentrifying section of the neighborhood the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University call home. Home prices in the neighborhood have skyrocketed since 2000, pricing out working-class families.

IBID still controls the majority of the land the complex occupied. It’s unclear what will be built there, but the parcel sits amid a growing life science market.

“In terms of the private development portion, we’re not at a point where we can discuss anything publicly,” said spokesperson Kevin Feeley.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal