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The Future of Housing in NYC: Alumni Convening

October 3, 2018

Leading the charge and from the trenches, alums are challenging how we think about housing.



On Wednesday, September 26, 46 alums and many students and faculty convened at CUNY Law for an intense and powerful dialogue about the challenges and opportunities created by the new right to counsel for attorneys practicing in the difficult and challenging area of housing law in New York City in 2018. The event brought together the voices of attorneys and educators, with the goals of informing alums about the state of current housing education provided by CUNY Law and seeking their counsel on how the Law School can better support alums and graduate attorneys prepared to hit the ground running.

Over an Italian dinner, alums reconnected, reminisced, and shared their experiences doing the difficult but rewarding work of housing law. As Professor John Whitlow explained, CUNY Law and its alums are “keeping this city the type of place where people can come and escape various nightmares to live their dreams,” but even with the passage of the 2017 Right to Counsel law for tenants facing eviction, much work needs to be done. Housing attorneys carry tremendous caseloads and practice in courthouses overwhelmed by the needs of their clients. Office space is scarce or nonexistent, and the stress of fighting for people to keep their homes is exhausting. Poor people and vulnerable people are always the ones most at risk, and New York City is experiencing a rising crisis in affordable housing availability.

But the news is not all bad. As Dean Mary Lu Bilek explained, “CUNY Law is always reflecting on what we are doing, and asking ourselves: how can we do it better?” On Wednesday night, alums chimed in with smart, concrete, real-world advice on how to do just that. Suggestions including interweaving housing law throughout the curriculum more thoroughly, the creation of a housing clinic, and recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of housing law, which intersects with immigration, criminal defense, and mental health, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Thank you for coming back to CUNY Law, alums! We hear you, and we’re here for you. The conversation is not over – it’s just beginning.

Here’s what we already provide for CUNY Law students interested in learning about housing law:

Housing Related Curricular and Programming Offerings 2018-19_001

We also offer a Housing Justice Practicum, which trains third-year students in the legal frameworks and skills related to the preservation of affordable housing and explores the context of the current housing crisis. The course is comprised of a weekly seminar and an externship with a housing legal services provider, which together facilitate the acquisition of concrete skills, knowledge, experience, and connections in a vital and rapidly growing area of public interest law.


Related Categories: Alumni, Spotlight

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