On Thursday, February 12, 2015, the TJSL Community Economic Development Clinic, Career Services, and the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law sponsored “Careers in Affordable Housing and Community Development Law.” Moderated by Adjunct Professor and supervising attorney of the Community Economic Development Clinic, Rebecca Niemen, the panel brought together attorneys from across the country to share their experiences in the field.
The panelists included: Richard M. Froehlich, CFO and General Counsel of the New York City Housing Development Corporation; Catherine Rodman, Director and supervising attorney at Affordable Housing Advocates; Sherrod Banks, principal at the Banks Law Firm, P.A. and Chairman of the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law; and Andrea Carter ‘08, TJSL alumna and solo practitioner.
Representing the government sector, Richard Froehlich began the discussion by explaining his role in securing the financing for billion-dollar income based housing projects in New York City. “The NYC Housing Development Corporation is a government agency that is a public corporation, we issue bonds for the development of affordable housing. We are very entrepreneurial and work with the city, bank lending, private lending, and make a lot of money through differential lending. Affordable housing is a national issue, we are unusual in the amount of resources that we put into affordable housing and other people often look to us.” Froehlich said. “People in affordable housing really enjoy it because we are making a difference in people’s lives.”
As an eviction defense attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Catherine Rodman noticed that clients in overpaid substandard housing inevitably returned within an eight month period. “So I looked around for things that would affect some systemic change.” Rodman then focused on engaging agencies in litigation in order to enforce redevelopment statutes that target replacing affordable housing. “Housing is the biggest share of anyone’s budget, especially for poorer people, so you have a greater ability to impact poverty by getting housing costs affordable and better people’s quality of life.”
In addition to being Chairman of the ABA forum, panelist Sherrod Banks owns a thriving affordable housing and community development law practice in North Carolina. Banks describes his practice as multidisciplinary, combining business and corporate law, real estate law, public finance and legislative representation. “As Chairman of the ABA forum we put on educational events for lawyers and students throughout the year about the industry,” Banks added. “For students membership is free and you can make some wonderful contacts if you decide to practice in this area.”
Local attorney Andrea Carter ‘08 specializes in small business, contract, and land use. “I was never really satisfied with the Band-Aid approach to practicing law, I wanted to use my law degree as a means to an end to get to the underlying root causes of issues,” Carter explained. “My practice is related to my purpose in life and what I find to be meaningful work. I think that is key. Whether you go into this area of law or not, it is important to find something that is purposeful, something that motivates you.”
The ABA provided informational materials and encouraged attendees to get involved with the Affordable Housing and Community Development Law Forum and writing competition in March.
“The panel was truly inspiring as we had a diverse group of speakers who are solo practitioners, small firm owners and government counsel. I enjoyed hearing that panel members had a common goal regardless of the side they represent and regarding their practice outside of California,” said 2L Christina Gonzalez.
“It was an honor to have the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law ask Thomas Jefferson School of Law to host this amazing panel,” Professor Nieman said. “The panelists provided such a unique perspective on an area of law that is unknown to many students. It opened the students’ eyes in seeing that their legal training can take them in a multitude of directions. It was also educational from a practitioner’s viewpoint to hear how various attorneys are working on these issues across the nation. Overall, it was a great event!”