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Fellowships at the National Housing Law Project

The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) is seeking applicants to sponsor for public interest fellowships beginning in fall 2018. This is a unique opportunity to join a passionate and dedicated staff of housing advocates during a critical moment in our nation’s history. Faced with a historic lack of affordable housing, our communities are now threatened with the reduction and even elimination of critical federal resources that help low-income families obtain and maintain safe and stable housing. As a fellow at NHLP, you will help lead the national fight for the rights of tenants through education, collaboration, and collective action. For students who wish to begin their fellowship in fall 2018, applications are due to NHLP by July 21, 2017.

Seeking Fellows!

NHLP encourages newly emerging public interest attorneys and graduating law students who are committed to our broad, substantive focus areas to seek our sponsorship for a post-graduate fellowship. Generally, NHLP serves only as the sponsoring organization, and does not provide fellowship funding. Common funding sources include Equal Justice Works, the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, school-sponsored fellowships, and the Soros Justice Fellowships. Potential fellows must first apply to NHLP for organizational sponsorship before applying to fellowship funding sources.

NHLP, with a staff of nationally recognized experts in federal housing law and an office strategically situated in San Francisco, California provides the ideal professional home for the design and implementation of innovative fellowship projects. NHLP’s home city of San Francisco and the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area communities are rich in diversity, energized by community activism, and grounded in progressive public policy. Fellowships at NHLP have helped to launch the public interest law careers of many dedicated attorneys. Recent projects included (1) implementation and enforcement of federally mandated housing protections for women affected by domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (2) guaranteeing language access to immigrants and people with limited English proficiency that access affordable housing and (3) in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders, working to guarantee tenants’ rights are protected during the roll-out of a new federal program aimed to preserve the nation’s public housing stock.

The ideal fellowship candidate will have:

• Demonstrated commitment to working with and for low-income and underserved populations;
• Extremely high-caliber legal research and writing skills;
• Substantive experience in housing, economic justice, environmental justice, and/or related issues;
• Demonstrated abilities to work independently as well as a member of a team;
• Excellent communication skills; and
• Be admitted, or plan to seek admission, to the California Bar

NHLP is an equal opportunity employer who strives to reflect the diverse community it serves. Candidates who contribute to this diversity are strongly encouraged to apply. Reasonable accommodation is available for qualified individuals with disabilities, upon request.

How to Apply

To apply, please email a cover letter, resume, writing sample, unofficial transcript, and three references to Kara Brodfuehrer at kbrodfuehrer@nhlp.org. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and early applications are encouraged. For students who wish to begin their fellowship in fall 2018, applications are due to NHLP by July 21, 2017.

Possible Fellowship Projects

Depending on the applicant’s experiences and interests, possible fellowship projects could include, but are not limited to:

• Expanding Opportunities for People with Criminal History: Diminished access to decent and affordable housing for the formerly incarcerated has been identified as the greatest determinant of successful re-entry in numerous studies. An increasing number of men and women are being released from prison, and securing stable housing exponentially is essential to improve their chances of successful reentry. Despite this evidence, people with criminal records are routinely barred from both private and subsidized housing in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Lawmakers are beginning to take notice of the importance of reentry and family reunification resources, but many housing admission decisions are still left to the discretion of housing owners or managers. The fellow will join NHLP and national allies to engage in policy advocacy and training to improve housing opportunities for people who have come in contact with the criminal justice system.

• Protecting the Housing Rights of Immigrants: The Trump Administration’s war on immigrants has led to overwhelming fear by immigrants that their families will be torn apart because of increased threats of deportation across the country. The political climate has further emboldened landlords to exploit the growing terror of immigration enforcement to take advantage of tenants in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The fellow will provide trainings and support to legal service providers and residents on the housing and privacy rights of immigrants in housing. Additionally, the fellow will engage in advocacy and litigation challenging landlords who engage in illegal and abusive housing practices committed against tenants because of their immigration status.

• Healthy Homes Initiative: Despite historically high rents throughout the country and a lack of affordable housing, federal funding for housing assistance is so low that only 1 in 4 families who qualify for federal assistance receive it. As a result, housing instability and homelessness have become the public health crises of our lifetime. Research shows that as families face eviction and displacement, physical and mental health deteriorates and hospital visits increase, among other negative health impacts. Housing instability and related family instability is a major contributor to the $3 trillion spent on healthcare in the United States. The fellow will collaborate with government agencies, including HUD and the USDA, and public health and housing advocates to examine the link between housing and health. The fellow will devise best practices and policy solutions to support safe, stable, and healthy homes including affordable housing preservation, protection from environmental hazards, and access to civil justice.

• Protecting Housing Rights of LGBT Individuals and Families. Despite the progress made regarding rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons, discrimination in housing against LGBT individuals and families persists. Discrimination against LGBT persons in housing-related transactions can violate fair housing laws. During the Obama Administration, HUD issued regulations that require access to its programs regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. However, the future of these regulations is uncertain. For this project, the fellow will provide training and technical assistance to advocates nationwide on protecting LGBT housing rights in both federally subsidized and private housing in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Additionally, part of this fellowship project will involve extensive research of LGBT housing protections at the state level, and compiling findings into a format accessible to housing advocates. Furthermore, the fellow will engage in coalition-building with national LGBT and other civil rights organizations, and advocate for LGBT housing protections at the federal, state, and local levels, as appropriate.

• Expanding Tenants Rights in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program: The LIHTC program is one of the nation’s largest affordable housing programs, supporting over two million units. However, because it is administered by the Treasury Department and more than 50 state and local allocating agencies, applicants and tenants have few rights to fair treatment, despite the fact that the public subsidy covers a substantial portion of a unit’s capital cost. Building upon mostly successful efforts in the last decade to establish and implement a good cause eviction requirement in this program, the fellow will develop a tenant rights policy agenda in collaboration with advocates nationwide, seeking to establish critical rights in key jurisdictions through rulemaking and the LIHTC Qualified Allocation Plan process. The fellow’s work will also include training for advocates and litigation support in cases challenging unfair treatment.

• Protecting Housing for Domestic Violence Survivors: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) expanded housing protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence by covering additional federal housing programs, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC), and requiring that covered housing providers provide emergency transfers for survivors who must leave their units because of the abuse. Despite these mandates, the federal and state agencies responsible for administering LIHTC, as well as housing providers, have not implemented VAWA’s new requirements. Additionally, many public housing authorities and federally subsidized housing providers have not developed and used VAWA emergency transfer plans. Failures to implement these critical protections threaten the housing security of survivors and place their lives at risk. The fellow will work with government agencies, advocates, and housing providers to develop policies ensuring that VAWA is implemented in the tax credit program and that federal housing providers are developing and using emergency transfer plans for survivors in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

• Preserving Affordable Housing: As a result of federal budget and policy decisions, communities across the country face an increasingly acute housing crisis worsened by significant losses of affordable housing units or subsidies. Current proposals by the Administration and some in Congress to cut federal support for affordable housing will only exacerbate this crisis. Affordable housing units under a wide variety of programs are threatened, including public housing, project-based Section 8, HUD and Rural Development subsidized mortgages, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and Housing Choice Voucher programs. Although Congress, HUD, and USDA have undertaken many preservation initiatives, such as the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), the crisis continues and implementation requires careful monitoring to ensure that affordable housing and tenant rights are protected. The fellow will join NHLP staff and allies nationwide to engage in policy advocacy, training, and selective litigation to preserve affordable housing for very low-income families.

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