70-unit housing development on a 2.6-acre lot in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became the site of an acute struggle in 2021 when I.B.I.D. Associates, the multi-million-dollar corporation that owns the property, announced it would sell the property instead of renewing its affordable housing contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The decision meant displacement for the residents of the University City Townhomes, one of the last remaining majority African American–occupied affordable housing developments in the University City neighborhood.

An ad-hoc campaign to save the townhomes brought together a diverse coalition, including the housing justice group Philadelphia Housing Action and local chapters of Jewish Voice for PeaceBlack Lives MatterExtinction Rebellion, and ACT UP, among others. Thanks to their work, the Philadelphia City Council placed an initial demolition moratorium on the townhomes in March 2022. After a brief legal fight, in April 2023, the property’s owners and developers agreed to transfer 20% of the lot to the City of Philadelphia to be developed as 74 units of affordable housing. Residents forced to leave also received $50,000 each in compensation out of the settlement. Some of those residents have said they plan to return and live in the new affordable units once they are built.

The struggle to save the UC Townhomes revealed to many something marginalized urbanites already know too well—today, cities are being planned and developed to serve the interests of elites and big corporations rather than the communities that call them home.

Read the full article about urban planning by Marianne Dhenin at YES! Magazine.