FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 19, 2020
In response to the continuing allegations from the Mayor and City of Philadelphia that negotiations to end the Housing Now protest encampments and Philadelphia Housing Action housing takeovers have been impeded by a lack of consistent leadership and an ever changing list of demands, Philadelphia Housing Action has created a summary with supporting documentation that details the 2 month history of meetings and negotiations with the City.
The documentation supports organizers claims that their demands have been consistent and unchanging while undermining the City’s claim that they have met 20 demands from the encampments. The summary also clearly shows consistency in organizer representation at negotiations, contradicting the City’s claim that there was no clear leadership or negotiating partners.
Although the City responded to the organizers demands from the encampments, their proposals never included immediate housing solutions for the residents of the encampment and never addressed the transfer of vacant properties to a community land trust. The City’s proposals were either an expansion of existing programs which already excluded encampment residents, the creation of new programs with ESG (CARES Act) funding which also excludes the majority of residents, did not lead directly to permanent housing or were for some unspecified time in the future. Again, the City demanded the disbandment and eviction of the protest encampments with nowhere for encampment residents to go; all that has been offered is for residents to access existing services and treatment and promises to work with Philadelphia Housing Action in the ‘future.’
For it’s part, the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s (PHA) main final offer was called a Community Choice Registration Program (CCRP) that would make available 62 properties for a ‘selection process,’ which would allow for any nonprofit or registered community organization to apply for the properties, allowed for a variety of uses other than low income housing and provided that the grantees would be selected by the Housing Authority itself. No timeline for transfer was offered, no clarity was given about who would be on the selection committee, no list of houses was released and there was no guarantee that any of the houses going to Philadelphia Housing Action or indeed for their use to explicitly house extremely low-income people. This selection process was scheduled to occur after the eviction of the encampments.
Due to the lack of commitment to finding immediate and appropriate housing options for the members of the protest encampments, organizers stressed again and again that they would not be able to reach an agreement to disband the encampments.
Regarding the housing takeovers, in which over 50 people are currently housed in 15 vacant city-owned properties (most of which are owned by the PHA), the City and the Housing Authority agreed only to follow the law, which requires a civil court ejectment process for anyone who has established a residence in a vacant property. This is a minor victory in that the Housing Authority routinely ejects squatters without a court process, something we view as illegal and which they are able to do based soley on the fact of posessing their own unaccountable police department that can threaten people with felony level criminal charges and remove them at gunpoint. The Housing Authority would not commit to allowing the families to remain in their homes, stated they would likely not be able to stay in their homes and that they would be made into PHA tenants with no provision for what would happen to residents who did not qualify for PHA housing due to their criminal history or any other disqualifications.
Philadelphia Housing Action has consistently maintained the position that the protest encampments for Housing Now! would not be ended without suitable housing options for all of the encampment residents. As for the housing takeovers, residents would like to have their living situation legalized regardless of their particular individual situations. Both the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Authority have failed to meet this standard and have continuously mislead the public as to the nature of our impass. We hope these documents will help clarify the nature of the negotiations for anyone who may be interested in seeing for themselves.