Interdisciplinary approach.  As we mentioned above, the housing and community development clinic takes an expansive view of the lawyering role.  What this means in the development context is that we provide more than traditional lawyering services such as legal research, negotiation, counseling and drafting.  We also provide assistance with organizing, financial analysis of project feasibility, creating a development team, packaging financing and training residents in the development process and in the operation of a building.  Our students learn a variety of skills and are exposed to complex, often uncharted, real life problems. 

The skills they develop in the clinic are relevant not only to community lawyering but to transactional lawyering generally.  Many of our students go on to firms specializing in transactional work, often in the field of affordable housing.  We have been told by a partner of one national firm with a large affordable housing practice (and one in which we have placed several students in the Washington, New York and Boston offices) that the housing and community clinic provided a great minor league system for that firm.   In fact, our students who were employed by that firm were prepared to do things that its 4th year associates were not prepared to do.

Range of Services

  • Organization of resident groups
  • Incorporation of group and board training
  • Counseling on whether to purchase their building
  • Acquisition and renovation planning
  • Feasibility analysis
  • Development budgeting
  • Preparation of loan applications
  • Negotiation of loan documents and of vendor contracts
  • Contract Drafting

Community building and education.  The philosophy of the clinic is to assist clients in developing durable institutions that will last and that will provide a base for acquiring and asserting political and economic power.  This is accomplished through the creation of tenant-owned and operated buildings and community-based businesses as well as through assisting community groups with whom we collaborate to accomplish their goals and complete their projects.  Two of our projects demonstrate our commitment to community education:

The Tenant Survival Guide.  Our Tenant Survival Guide has become the pre-eminent source of information (in English and Spanish) about tenant rights and resources in the District of Columbia.  Now in its 5th edition, 25,000 copies have been distributed (including Georgetown Law students).  The D.C. Office of Tenant Advocate (OTA) has commissioned a new edition with 100,000 copies.  It is OTA's goal to distribute a copy to every tenant household in the District.

Analysis of the Strengths and Deficiencies of Washington, D.C.'s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.   Commissioned by the Fannie Mae Foundation, this report explores improvements in the process of tenant ownership.  The Foundation is holding a conference where the Harrison Institute will present the report to housing developers, lenders, government officials and tenant advocates.