Multifamily Housing

We typically represent tenant groups who are seeking to purchase their buildings or to negotiate with an owner regarding management of building operations. In this context, client accountability often involves incorporating the group, helping to organize a board of directors, training that board in both corporate duties and the development process, and managing the potentially conflicting interests of residents with different levels of income and assets. A successful multifamily project usually includes multiple institutions and professional service providers, and it is the community lawyer’s role to help the group client select and then manage this development team. We go on to assist in the acquisition and development of a project by negotiating and drafting acquisition documents, helping to assess feasibility, assembling financing, reviewing loan documents, closing the acquisition loan and helping to plan the renovations of the building. Once the building has been acquired, we assist the client in converting the building to cooperative or condominium status and train the members in operating the building and their corporation.

Sample Client Projects

In the past five years, the clinic has represented 30 client groups, with 17 active groups in 2006. Examples:

I330 Tenants Association

In the summer of 2002, low-income tenants at 1330 7th St., NW (a 136 unit building in a highly gentrifying neighborhood close to the Convention Center) were faced with notice that their landlord was selling the building for $6,000,000, an amount beyond the imagination of most residents. Many of them had lived in the building through difficult years. As the neighborhood changed, the residents wanted to benefit and not be displaced by gentrification.

Many of our client groups face this situation. In this instance, the students and their supervisor educated the residents about their choices and the process of buying and developing their property. We stood with the residents as they chose to buy and helped them through the acquisition and renovation process. Throughout it all, the residents played a major role in developing the property. In the process, they obtained new skills and recognized latent skills that they already had.

The story has a happy ending as the residents entered a partnership with a non-profit developer, bought the building and renovated it with no involuntary displacement. Seniors, families and young people enjoy the improved conditions, control their living environment and have new sense of accomplishment.

Tasks & accomplishments

 Working with the tenant associations, clinic students accomplished many important tasks:

  • Helped tenants decide on an ownership structure
  • Assisted in finding development partners
  • Negotiated contracts with the partners
  • Trained residents in organizational structure and operation, development process and community outreach
  • Advocated for residents with partners and others – this was particularly important in smoothing out a difficult startup period with the development consultant
  • Negotiated the terms of private equity investment
  • Negotiated loans from public and private lenders
  • Drafted bylaws, leases and house rules

A Street Manor Cooperative

Unlike 1330, A Street Manor is a small building (15 units) in an outlying part of town. But much of the story is the same: a tenant group started out somewhat at a loss and developed into a group that can make and implement difficult decisions. A telling anecdote took place at the closing of acquisition. At that time, the building was only partly occupied; and several units were uninhabitable or in poor condition. The neighborhood was distressed, but residents saw the hope of better times for the building, their community and themselves. Shortly after closing, the vice president of the association approached us, quivering with excitement. We asked her why, and she replied that it was her lifelong dream to own a home, and now she did. She had just called her mother to tell her she felt as if she had just bought a palace.

Capital Manor Cooperative

This 102 unit project is comprised of three contiguous buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood. It is the best known of our projects as the Washington Post featured it in a three-day series on tenant ownership in December of 2005. In a personal way, it chronicles the journey of a tenant group in its move from being renters to being owners. To see the story, click here.

These projects and others like them enable students to engage in sophisticated transactions and to master the analytical and technical skills needed to complete them. These skills will enhance each student’s ability to engage in a transactional practice in any setting.

Collaborators

Funders

  • The Fannie Mae Foundation
  • The Ford Foundation
  • The Enterprise Foundation
  • The Local Initiative Support Corporation
  • National Cooperative Bank

Government

  • DC Department of Housing and Community Development
  • DC Deputy Mayor for Economic Development
  • DC Housing Finance Agency
  • DC Housing Authority
  • DC Office of Tenant Advocate
  • US Department of Housing and Community Development
  • US Department of Agriculture Graduate School

Community

  • Unitarian Universalist Housing Development Corporation
  • Washington Area Community Investment Fund
  • Various Community Development Corporations (CDCs)
  • Coalition of Nonprofit Housing and Economic Developers
  • Housing Counseling Services
  • University Legal Service

Other service providers

  • Private banks and lending institutions
  • Nonprofit developers
  • Community organizers
  • Housing counselors

Client & Projects - Entrepreneurship

For many years the housing and community development clinic has assisted entrepreneurs in starting and expanding their businesses.  As with the housing side of the clinic, we look for businesses that will be community based and/or employ community residents and that will have a lasting beneficial impact in the neighborhood.  Our caseload has a mix of basic startup services and more complex corporate and financial activities.  Our clients include individuals, local Community Development Corporations (CDCs), and national nonprofit organizations.

Business development.  Our practice is varied.  We represent individuals and community groups.  We work with for profit and non profit organizations.  We work with startups and with established business.  For example, we have assisted a CDC in setting up a network of new CDC owned businesses.  We assisted another CDC in spinning-off two of their businesses to worker ownership.  For yet another CDC, we prepared proposals and operating manuals for a micro-loan fund and for a community credit union.  We represented a local resident who ran a social service program for a national nonprofit to spin her program off and to create a separately funded, free standing nonprofit organization.  This involved complicated financial transactions in which grants made to the national nonprofit were transferred, mid-grant, to the new local organization.

We have also assisted dozens of small business owners and entrepreneurs wishing to start or expand businesses.  In this regard, we have put together financing for major asset acquisitions, created partnerships, protected intellectual property, negotiated commercial leases and negotiated bank loans.

On a smaller scale, we have assisted clients, often residents in the buildings with which we work, to set up home-based businesses.  These produce additional income for the entrepreneur and additional goods and services for consumers.  Moreover, the skills learned and utilized by the entrepreneur in operating the business are translatable into other areas of the entrepreneur's life.  They build social capital that is valuable to the individual and to the surrounding community.

Entrepreneurial training.  Since 1998, the clinic has offered each semester one of a variety of entrepreneurship training courses.  These typically involve weekly two hour classes for 8-10 weeks, covering a variety of legal and non-legal topics such as choice of form, licensing, insurance, financing, accounting, record keeping and creating a business plan.  Students for these classes are selected from among lower-income residents of the District of Columbia.  Information about the courses is distributed by the clinic and many of its community collaborators.

During the past year, in addition to the entrepreneurship course, we offered a course on financial literacy and one on negotiation.  These courses differed in format from the entrepreneurship classes, usually being one or two day workshops, held on weekends.  For these classes, as well as for the entrepreneurship classes, we have brought in outside experts to teach when necessary or appropriate.

Typically about 30 people begin the class and 20 to 23 people complete it.  The feedback from participants has been very positive, yet each year, we do a self-evaluation.  As a result of these reviews, we have honed the courses and developed new ones to meet the changing needs of our potential students.  No other course offered in the District offers the combination of legal and business information or the possibility of technical assistance to bring the new information to bear on a start up or expanded business.

Collaborators

Funders

  • The Enterprise Foundation
  • US Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • DC Department of Employment Services
  • DC Housing Authority
Government
  • DC Department of Housing and Community Development
  • DC Housing Authority

Community

  • One DC (Formerly Manna Community Development Corp.)
  • Latino Economic Development Corporation
  • Various MainStreets Programs
  • Latin American Youth Center

Other

  • United Bank
  • CityFirst Bank
  • Capital Area Asset Building Corporation (CAAB)
  • Coalition of Non Profit Housing and Economic Developer

Recent student work products

  • Various Corporate documents
    • Articles of incorporation
    • Bylaws
    • Corporate resolutions
  • Applications for federal income tax exemption
  • Memos on the feasibility of a micro-loan fund or credit union
  • Memoranda of understanding
  • Curricula for various courses
    • Entrepreneurship training
    • Financial literacy
    • Negotiation