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Community Development Law Clinic Update

Thursday, September 27, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Bradford Voegeli
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The Community Development Law Clinic (CDLC) continues to preserve affordable housing and support charitable organizations in the District of Columbia. The clinic has eleven active cases for the Fall 2012 semester. CDLC student attorneys began their casework in late August and have been involved with many exciting developments.  

Student attorneys Julie Case, 3L, Omeed Tabiei, 3L, and Andrea Zahrastnik, 3L, are helping their client, a limited equity housing cooperative, to finalize the process of converting all rental units in the building into cooperative units.  The client can accomplish this without displacing any residents, all of whom are low-income tenants that qualify for Section 8 federal housing assistance. The use of the limited equity cooperative model will ensure that the building remains affordable for all current and future members of the cooperative.  

The story of this client is one of perseverance, and this conversion process is a welcome culmination.  The cooperative formed out of a tenant association that won a hard fought battle to save the building.  In 2003, the prior property manager, assuming control of the limited partnership that owned the building, refused to renew the property’s Section 8 subsidy and attempted to evict the tenants. With pro bono assistance from Crowell & Moring, which CDLC arranged, the tenants successfully sued to enforce a contractual right to purchase the building.  After withstanding appeal, the tenants incorporated the cooperative in 2010 with the assistance of CDLC student attorneys and obtained financing to purchase and rehabilitate the building. The cooperative now owns a fully refurbished building, and CDLC proudly expects to help the client realize its goal of full conversion this semester.  

CDLC has additional victories to celebrate.  Another client that is also a limited equity housing cooperative received news on Sept. 10, 2012, that it is one of five recipients, out of roughly 18 applicants, for which the District of Columbia has approved for the FY 2012 Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. This program provides a restricted supply of tax credits to investors in exchange for funds contributed to develop affordable housing. Upon receipt of the award, the client will have about $935,000 free of debt, with which to perform extensive repairs to its building! CDLC student attorneys helped the client apply for the funds last semester, and student attorneys Caitlin Cavness and Andrea Zahrastnik are excited to assist the client in moving forward with its development goals.  

To expand educational opportunities for students and assist in post-Katrina development projects across the Gulf Coast Region, CDLC entered into a co-counsel relationship with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in January 2012. Student attorneys Kelly Douglas and Carl Engstrand continue the project.  They will aid in the formation of a nonprofit organization that intends to build a recreation center in which it will provide after-school education and care. The student attorneys will also prepare the organization’s application for federal tax exemption.  Their other client is a community land trust in a culturally and historically significant community established by free African-American men and women soon after the end of the Civil War.  The student attorneys will assist the community land trust in pursuing a plan to use over twenty scattered parcels of land to develop affordable housing and preserve wetlands. CDLC would like to thank Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Mississippi Center for Justice for making this collaboration possible and providing a unique experience for our students.  


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