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Penn students and West Philadelphia residents protest the selling of townhomes in University City outside College Hall on Feb. 23. Credit: Derek Wong

University City Townhomes developer IBID Associates is planning to file a lawsuit against Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier following the passage of legislation preventing the townhomes from being sold and demolished.

The Philadelphia City Council approved the bill in a 15-1 vote on March 10, WHYY reported. In response, IBID Associates said that Gauthier was using her role to “punish” IBID. 

“It is clear by her actions that the Councilmember is intent on using the power of her office to … prevent [IBID] from exercising its constitutional right to sell the property,” IBID spokesperson Kevin Feeley said. 

Feeley added that IBID had “no choice” but to pursue litigation to protect its right to sell its property — which was put up for sale last July — after almost two years of private discussion with Gauthier. 

The bill comes after IBID Associates denied the renewal of its contract for affordable housing with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under the HUD contract, the primarily Black and working-class tenants of the UC Townhomes pay rent equal to 30% of their household income. 

As the contract expires, tenants have been told they will be given housing vouchers that will allow them to live in other subsidized houses, but these vouchers have yet to be processed or received. Hundreds of tenants of the townhomes currently face eviction on July 2022 — when 69 households will be displaced

Penn students and West Philadelphia residents have protested the eviction of the residents from the townhomes, demanding Penn intervene in the redevelopment process. The local Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes and Police Free Penn held a teach-in, where local residents and activists criticized Penn for gentrifying the surrounding community and historically contributing to the displacement of Black residents. 

Gauthier spoke before the bill’s passage. “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,” Gauthier said, according to WHYY News.