Residents of the University City townhouses have been battling for more than nine months for the right to keep their homes at 40th and Market streets. Over the past 20 days, they have staged an encampment to protest the demolition of the UC townhomes. This community knows the effect of gentrification* especially well. They have seen the houses around them fall victim to gentrification, and they are fighting to make sure that they will not be next. In addition to the encampment, they have used the generous donations of others to aid the impoverished. They keep a stand and a tent with donations and supplies, which are both constantly watched by volunteers.
Our community is not for sale. Stop the sale. Eviction is violence. These are some of the signs found painted on the picket fences surrounding the University City townhomes. Behind these fences are tents of all shapes, colors, and sizes. This is a close community of people, and there is a constant sound of friendly conversation between the residents and their friends, neighbors, or anyone passing by. In front of all of this, huge cardboard posters are painted with the same message: SAVE THE UC TOWNHOUSES.
About nine months ago, Altman Management Company – the owners of the building – gave a notice to the residents telling them the building was soon to be sold and redeveloped for the construction of a research lab and high-end apartments. As compensation for the eviction of 68 families, the Altman Management Company offered housing vouchers. However, residents have complained that the $800-$900 vouchers are not even close to meeting the financial reality of moving.
Darlene Foreman, one of the residents, has lived in the UC townhomes for over 25 years. Foreman has been a spokesperson for the Save the UC Townhomes Coalition and a leader in the fight against the gentrification of her community. “Losing our homes. Possibly being homeless on the street,” she said. “Not being able to find a place to live is the reason why we started the fight.”
Although the residents still have access to their homes, they have camped outside as a sign of protest. “The prices of apartments and houses right now are ridiculous. If they were to just keep on doing what they are doing and just let us go in the street, a lot of us will wind up just like that,” Foreman said, as she gestured to the tents.
Save the UC Townhomes Coalition has previously led marches down University City in protest of the eviction. They have created a petition to ask others to stand with them in their fight against Altman Management Group, which stands to gain $100 million from the sale. Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier of the third district briefly delayed the demolition of the homes, but there is still a long fight ahead of the UC townhome residents.
“This is one of the last standing properties of the Black Bottom. That’s why it’s so important to us,” said Foreman. The Black Bottom is what residents call a group of majority-Black communities around University City, most of which has already succumbed to gentrification. Because of this, there are not nearly as many affordable low-income homes as there once were.
As the cost of housing constantly rises, the fear of losing a home is larger than ever. The Save the UC Townhomes Coalition would like the Altman Management Company to remember – as it’s written on a huge poster on the roof of the UC townhomes – housing is a human right.
*Gentrification is when wealthier people demolish and redevelop a poor urban area, usually at the expense of the residents living in the area.
written by Kaitlyn Ho