In two weeks, about 60 residents, most of whom are low-income, of the 231-unit Penn Wynn House in West Philadelphia will likely be evicted from the building they now call home in order to make way for a planned $40 million renovation project.
Concerned that this could leave many homeless, activists and tenants plan to hold a protest on Friday at noon outside on the Center City offices of Ajay Raju, chief evangelist of Cross Properties Acquisitions – who purchased the 17-story Penn Wynn structure late last year – at the Centre Square Office Complex at 1500 Market St. in the hopes of moving back the eviction date until the fall.
After earlier efforts, detailed by WHYY’s Newsworks, were able to push back the original eviction date from June 1 to June 30, protesters are now hoping that they can get this date pushed back to September 1 in order to allow for more time for current tenants to secure housing.
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The Philadelphia Tenants Union has joined with the Penn Wynn Tenants Association for the demonstration, and they are also hoping to have tenants’ security deposits returned on the day they are evicted, so that those evicted will be able to use those funds toward housing and other needs, instead of having to wait the traditional 30 days for them.
Residents learned in February that they would be evicted by June.
“It’s just inhumane,” said Stephanie Altimari, communications director for the Philadelphia Tenants Union, of the impending evictions. “They are not going to have anywhere to go.”
Cross Properties Acquisitions did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but their website claims the planned renovations to the Penn Wynn building will include “a gym, dog park, social lounge, pool and a 4,000 [square foot] rooftop deck with uninterrupted views of the Philadelphia skyline.”
During an interview this week, Altimari said that the low-income residents – many of whom are disabled – need the additional time to find adequate housing. She said that many are living on a fixed income of less than $800 a month, and they need time to find housing that not only fits their individual budgets but is also handicapped-accessible for those that need it.
“This still is not enough time because some of these people are on a fixed income,” she said.
In order to highlight the residents’ plight, the Philadelphia Tenants Union has created a video in which they have asked several tenants of the complex to detail their concerns over the impending evictions.
“One of my greatest fears is to be homeless again,” said Penn Wynn resident Leon J. Tyer Jr. in the video. “You think that three months, 90 days, is enough to move everybody, and it’s not. … There’s too many variables to think that three months is sufficient time for an individual to up his life and move anywhere they can.”
Other than the planned protest, Altimari said that, in Philadelphia, tenants have little recourse for eviction, because unlike California, Pennsylvania doesn’t have a “Just Cause for Eviction” law that can halt this process.
“There’s nothing that will stop eviction all together,” she said. “And, with the gentrification in Philly, it’s just going to get worse.”