Everyone give a middle finger to the current Arvilla apartment owners in West Philadelphia. They represent gentrification at its worst. In October 2018, they ousted residents with only one month notice in the middle of winter. Although they pushed back the deadline to January, their insistence on emptying out a 16-person unit containing some residents with over 50 years residence represents clear cut greed and an utter lack of morality. It also represents a mad dash to take advantage of an improving eco system that was very different 20 years ago contrasted with today.
West Philly Then
In the late 90s, when I resided at 45th and Pine, back before 'University City' actually existed, NO ONE wanted to live in 'crime-ridden' West Philly. My TA Moez Alimohamed was murdered at 47th and Pine. My freshman year roommate's boyfriend was shot in the foot. A year after I graduated, a Penn graduate student was murdered defending his colleague. The closest supermarket was Thriftway which sold questionably overpriced fruit with practically no restaurants in a 10 block radius save the McDonald's at 40th and Walnut. Only about 25% of Penn graduate students lived off campus and Philly in the 90s had an average crime index of 404,821.7.
Despite the alleged and reported crime (people broke into my car with a tree branch and later stole my rental car), I felt relatively safe. My $425 apartment featured a one bedroom with pine wood floors and a stone balcony. My neighbor was a nurse with an elementary aged daughter. My mother, who taught in inner city schools, approved of the area. If not for the racial (people who looked like me), economic (a mixture of working-class, students and university workers) and aforementioned crime demographic, I had no doubt I would've paid twice that rent.
West Philly Now
Fast forward 20-30 years, University City is born with an increase in neighborhood security patrols and area University partnerships. Additionally, crime index in Philadelphia overall decreased to 263,242 (with a reduction in violent crimes by 10k, robbery reports by 6k, larceny theft by 50k and vehicle theft by 20k). The median salary in the past 20-30 years for Philadelphia has increased by about 30k. Previously undesirable heavily minority-populated areas such as West Philly and Bella Vista are now considered desirable.
My old Pine Terrace apartment now rents for around 955. Last year Philly added around 6000 new residents. Although the NYT pointed out an increasing migration by former New Yorkers into Philadelphia in 2005 and of NY-based migrants getting pushed out in 2018, who hasn't met former Brooklyn-ites apurchasing what they consider relatively cheap properties? When I tried buying a home in University City, I couldn't find any in my price range. Philly, with the DNC and increase in tech jobs, is fast becoming a hotspot. If the new residents with the new money need a place to go, what happens to longstanding residents who do not own property but resided in and kept borderline areas stable? Enter Arvilla apartments.
Harsh Ousting of Arvilla Apartments
On October 18, 2018, residents received a lease termination notice, giving them ONE MONTH to move in the MIDDLE OF #$@#$ WINTER and the holiday season. Arvilla features 14 units, which means 14 FAMILIES were given LAST MINUTE NOTICE to GTFO and not let the door hit them on the ass in the way out. Many were faithful residents of 12-50 years. Arvilla residents are in an incredibly vulnerable place - as minorities and working-class individuals. The owners of the building clearly assumed they could easily take advantage of the residents without any difficulty or dignity. For that they deserve ultimate shame.
How Can You Help?
Residents need assistance moving and to identify new homes in safe areas. They need at least 4 more months to move, pack, alert their relatives of their new locations. Go to the Arvilla Tumblr which lists NUMEROUS ways you can assist - https://arvillaorganizing.tumblr.com
- Contact the property management firm, Columbus property management at at 215-557-8484
- Contact Mission First Housing at 215.557.8414
- Contact Rittenhouse Realty the seller at 215-454-2852
- Call ACHIEVEability (215-748-8800) and the Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement (215-567-7803)
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
- Attend the Spruce Hill Community Association’s zoning meeting to show your support on Monday Dec 17th at 7pm
Gentrification is coming to Philly. It isn't necessarily bad. But, the blatant disrespect of Black folk because they're Black or poor is fucking ridiculous. Help me. Stand up. Show your support. Victimization of vulnerable Philly residents is wrong and all the parties going along with it during this time are just flat out sad and reprehensible.
Image taken from Arvilla Tumblr. Scan provided by JJ Tizou.