PHILADELPHIA – An encampment that was established to protest the sale of The University City Townhomes, one of the last remaining affordable housing units in West Philadelphia, has been shut down by the police.
On Friday, a Philadelphia judge said the encampment must be dismantled by Monday at 9 am, but residents said they would not budge as the city scrambled to find suitable alternatives.
By Monday, the encampment was still set up as residents protested.
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The property owner, IBID Associates, has been part of the federal housing assistance program for decades but is now selling the land for redevelopment, something the neighborhood has seen a lot of recently.
Marie, a woman who has lived at The University City Townhomes for more than two decades, told FOX 29’s Hank Flynn that she would fight for her home.
She says if residents cannot stay there, accommodations must be made for them.
Rhonda, another HUD housing resident who has lived at the facility for 19 years, says the sale of the building has left residents anxious and with just two months to find a new place to live. “We shouldn’t be treated like we’re less than,” Rhonda said. “The places that they’re showing us [are] uninhabitable.”
Residents also say many other places aren’t accepting HUD housing vouchers, have waiting lists and are experiencing rises in crime.
After police started taking down tents, protesters took to the streets in the area, calling for more housing and better living conditions.
A spokesperson for the owners of the property released a statement saying, “The Court Order issued last week reaffirmed that the trespassers who had been encamped at the site had no legal right to remain there, and it instructed the Sheriff to clear the encampment, which has now occurred. The owners appreciate the work of the Sheriff’s personnel and the Philadelphia Police Department who completed this task under difficult conditions.”
The Sheriff’s Office shared a statement hours after protesters were removed, in which they called any criticism of the enforcement of the court order “misplaced and misdirected. Speaking on behalf of Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, the statement said they will continue to assist the underserved population in Philadelphia.
“The lack of affordable housing is an important issue that needs to be addressed by the legislative and executive branches, who may be able to offer another solution to this growing problem. As many of you know, Sheriff Bilal remains sympathetic to this issue of displacement and will continue to assist in the needs of the underserved population in Philadelphia,” the statement read in part.