Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Social Welfare

First Advisor

Mark Stern

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the consequences of university-driven development in Philadelphia, especially for the African American communities that surround the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Drexel University. It uses the theoretical contributions of W.E.B. Du Bois and David Harvey to conceptualize Philadelphia’s high rate of low-income homeownership as a product of the struggle of black workers and communities for democracy and the Right to the City. Thirty-three qualitative interviews with long-time residents, political activists, university administrators, and community institutions were conducted. Quantitative analysis including logistic regression analysis of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data comparing outcomes in gentrifying and non-gentrifying neighborhoods and spatial K-cluster analysis were also conducted. Results show that university-driven development is leading to the conversion of single-family homes into apartment buildings and multifamily rentals, and a vision of the city in which developers, city officials, and university administrators wish to (in the words of one interviewee) “bring Manhattan to Philadelphia”. For homeowners, density is a shorthand for social, economic, and political displacement of the black working class and the disappearance of affordable homeownership opportunities. Density and affordable housing—and an ideology of urbanism—as conceptualized by city planners, university officials, developers, and new residents, clash with communities’ definitions of what the urban fabric of Philadelphia should be, as well as what truly affordable housing looks like. Furthermore, the influx of a student and professional population and its definition of progressivism has led to the political displacement of constituencies that have been shaped by black liberation movements. Resistance to university-driven development, whether it is the movement against the building of Temple’s Stadium, or the drive to “save-zone” neighborhoods by rezoning them from mixed residential to single family, are led by black homeowners to preserve homeownership and black electorates. They are rooted in the historic struggles of the black worker in Philadelphia. I conclude with a discussion of the context of decreasing rates of homeownership in the country as a threat to a truly democratic society.

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