Standing up for safe senior housing at Brith Sholom House

Update

Philadelphia seniors facing displacement gather at City Hall for a Mother’s Day rally, calling on the city to save Brith Sholom House

A sign at the May 4th rally reading "Brith Sholom Another Building in Philadelphia without a Rental License"
The tenants rallied outside Philadelphia City Hall

May 14, 2024 – More than 150 senior residents of Brith Sholom House apartments are at risk of displacement, and they’re demanding action from the City of Philadelphia to save their homes.

Tuesday, May 14, tenants and supporters gathered at City Hall for a Mother’s Day rally, calling for the city to task the Department of Licenses & Inspections with making needed repairs and to support the Philadelphia Housing Authority—or another owner who can be held accountable—in buying the building from their neglectful landlord.

“No one would want their mother or grandmother to live with the unacceptable conditions and disrespect we endure.”

“No one would want their mother or grandmother to live with the unacceptable conditions and disrespect we endure,” said Marguerite Byrd, spokesperson of the Tenants Council. “We know that, with support, Brith Sholom House can be a vibrant and unique cultural community again, like it was before its changes in ownership. If it is lost, it can never be replaced—the city of Philadelphia has a duty to preserve this affordable senior housing.”

The rally was coved by Fox 29 and KYW. In a statement, city officials told Fox 29 that “The City is working with partners such as PHA to explore the possibility of maintaining the property for affordable housing.”

On Monday, May 6, tenants sent a letter to Mayor Cherelle Parker, requesting a meeting and describing the conditions they’ve faced. The building’s common areas—its lobby, auditorium, and veterans hall—have been locked, preventing the seniors from participating in many social activities.

“We used to pray together, play Bingo together, dance together, celebrate and grieve together,” they write. “We now live like prisoners and in constant fear of mass eviction.”

“Tenants should not be the ones paying the price for their landlords’ neglect and mismanagement by being forced from their homes—the city must take action to preserve this building.”

“Every senior in Philadelphia deserves a safe, dignified, and affordable place to live, but the supply of these homes does not come close to meeting this need” said Madison Gray, an Independence Foundation Attorney Fellow with the Public Interest Law Center. “Tenants should not be the ones paying the price for their landlords’ neglect and mismanagement by being forced from their homes—the city must take action to preserve this building.”

The 12-story, 360-unit apartment tower in Wynnefield is in receivership, and its owner, Brith Sholom Winit LP, was ordered to make repairs to address electrical, plumbing, fire safety and other issues in a November 15, 2023 injunction. Though issues remain, and progress has been slow, repairs are being made, and the Department of Licenses & Inspections inspected the property as recently as April 16, 2024, without making any determination that the building needs to be closed while violations are addressed.

The building is set to be sold at Sheriff’s Sale on June 4. 

“We stand steadfast in our support of the Brith Sholom tenants in their demands for the City to step in to help save this critically needed senior housing complex,” said Karen C. Buck, Executive Director of the Senior Law Center. “No older Philadelphian should face these poor living conditions or be at risk of becoming homeless because of the owner’s and building management’s multiple failures to comply with their obligations.”

On April 23, tenants received a shutoff notice from PGW stating that gas service may be shut off to the building, requiring a payment of $96,094. Court filings indicate that the owners of the building have failed to pay any gas bills since January 2022, despite continuing to collect rent for which utilities are included.

Thanks to medically vulnerable tenants asserting their rights under state law, PGW has placed a 30-day hold on the gas shut-off, with the earliest possible shut-off date pushed back to May 31, 2024. Medically vulnerable tenants are entitled to two renewals of this 30-day hold.