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In addition to the $3.5 million settlement, Penn and other University City institutions will provide support services to UC Townhomes residents.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

Penn will fund support services for University City Townhomes tenants under a $3.5 million settlement reached by the City of Philadelphia.

Under the terms of the settlement, the City will receive $3.5 million and the nonprofit United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey will distribute the funds among the former tenants of 70 units at the UC Townhomes to address relocation costs — equivalent to $50,000 for each displaced family, according to the settlement agreement.

In addition, Penn will help fund a coalition to provide support services to the tenants along with other University City institutions, including Penn Medicine, Drexel University, University City Science Center, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Penn, along with a coalition of anchor institutions in University City, will contribute funding for the United Way of Greater Philadelphia to provide ongoing support services to the residents, which will include financial counseling, legal aid, and employment counseling for the families that have or will be relocated from UCTH," University spokesperson Ron Ozio wrote in a statement to the DP.

The settlement proposal also requires IBID Associates — the developers of the UC Townhomes property — to transfer a 23,595-square-foot parcel of the land to the City for the development of 70 permanently affordable units and community green space. 

In a press release from the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes, residents expressed disappointment in the result, continuing to demand a "Right to Return" and more agency in the planning and development of affordable housing in West Philadelphia.

“We must have a written commitment from the City that guarantees a ‘Right to Return’ with a housing subsidy for current and former residents and a commitment to work with the residents on the redevelopment of the preserved site,” Rasheda Alexander, a resident and member of the UC Townhomes Resident Council, wrote in the press release. 

The lawsuit — I.B.I.D. Associates Limited Partnership v Councilmember Jamie Gauthier and the City of Philadelphia — alleged that Gauthier and the City had violated IBID’s constitutional right to sell the UC Townhomes property and to make use of the property’s former zoning for high-density commercial and mixed uses.

Gauthier told the DP that she sees this settlement as "a win" since, in similar scenarios, she said that tenants are typically displaced with no assistance after their housing subsidy expires.

"In the truest form of equity, nobody gets displaced from their home," Gauthier said. "But if you look at what we got in a settlement, it is certainly more than I have ever seen for one of these expiring subsidies."

She also said that the current residents of the UC Townhomes will "have the opportunity" to return to the new development "if that is what they want."

In a statement from Mayor Jim Kenney's office, the mayor wrote to the DP that the settlement will "facilitate equitable development through the preservation of affordable housing in West Philadelphia."

"As our city continues to grow and attract new amenities, collaboration between residents, stakeholders, and property owners is necessary to ensure that all Philadelphians have access to affordable and quality housing," Kenney wrote.

As a part of the agreement, the City will exclude the IBID property from the Affordable Housing Preservation Overlay, which was proposed by Gauthier. IBID’s development will be allowed to proceed according to the land’s former zoning for high-density commercial and mixed uses. 

A statement from IBID said that they are "pleased" to have reached a settlement.

"From the day that we made the decision to opt out of the Section 8 Agreement after nearly 40 years of operating the Townhomes, our preference was to build a campus that would create jobs, including jobs for residents of the West Philadelphia community, and generate major new investment in the city," the statement said.

The Daily Pennsylvanian previously reported that those involved were nearing a settlement in March, in which the proposed settlement would require that IBID Associates — who own the UC Townhomes — provide $3.5 million for displaced tenants.

Controversy over the UC Townhomes has continued since 2021, when Altman Management Company — a partner under IBID — announced plans to sell the property to a developer who would use the space for housing and life sciences. 

The original plans would have forced all 69 displaced households to relocate. Tenants received affordable housing vouchers that would allow them to move to other low-cost locations. As of February, around two-thirds of tenants had already vacated, according to IBID.

The settlement says that the agreement should not restrict IBID from evicting residents who have not relocated by August 15 nor prevent IBID from demolishing the property.

UC Townhomes residents have joined forces with Penn and Drexel students and housing activists to organize against the sale since it was announced. Protests over the past year have included an encampment on the UC Townhomes property and a protest in front of City Hall. At Penn, student organizers and community members have held demonstrations demanding University support for the residents at the Class of 2026 Convocation, President Liz Magill's inauguration, and during this year's Homecoming football game

Both Gauthier and the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes attribute the residents' activism to the settlement progress. 

"I feel very inspired by the tenants in how they organized," Gauthier said. "Certainly all of their activism and their passion to be treated with dignity and respect went toward what is happening here today."

In their press release, the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes wrote that it will "continue to call upon the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to address the displacement of historically Black communities by contributing funds toward this future development and other sites in the area."

Staff reporter Katie Bartlett contributed reporting.