On Friday, January 28, Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell; Professor Andrew Scherer; Housing Rights Clinic Teaching Assistants Carly Gartenberg 3L, Kira Lopez 3L, and Joseph Rochman 3L; and current Clinic student Tuhfa Begum 2L joined Biden Administration senior officials for a program recognizing 99 law schools for responding to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s call to action to the legal profession to address the housing and eviction crisis and to help increase housing stability and access to justice in their communities.
The law schools were celebrated by Garland, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Associate Attorney General of the United States Vanita Gupta, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, and Senior Advisor to the President and American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling.
“Five months ago, I asked the legal community to answer the call to help Americans facing eviction. Law students and lawyers from across the country stepped up to take on cases and assisted their clients and communities at a time when our country needed it the most. Today, our work is far from over, and making real the promise of equal justice under law remains our urgent and unfinished mission,” Garland said.
In August 2021, Dean Crowell signed a joint statement with other law school deans responding to the Attorney General’s call.
“New York Law School is proud to join our fellow law schools in answering the call by Attorney General Garland to respond to the housing crisis,” Dean Crowell said. “Our law school has a long record of training new lawyers and advocates and being leaders of the legal and policy measures taken in response to urgent housing issues. We will continue to respond to this urgent national challenge.”
NYLS’s efforts toward preventing housing loss for New Yorkers includes the Housing Rights Clinic, directed by Professor Scherer, a nationally recognized housing law leader and expert. He supervises 11 students representing low-income New Yorkers in housing litigation and related policy work. The Clinic works with community-based organizations to educate and assist New Yorkers with the State’s COVID-19 rental assistance program and the consequences of the expiration of the eviction moratorium.
NYLS also launched the Housing Justice Leadership Institute to train housing rights supervising attorneys to lead, manage, and support delivery of the highest-quality legal assistance to tenants facing eviction in New York City and to hold trainings for new housing lawyers.
During the program, Gupta spoke to the ways in which the housing crisis impacts Americans through the lens of their various identities: “The housing crisis is a poverty and economic security issue because of the long-lasting effects that we know evictions have on families. It’s a racial and gender justice issue because of the disproportionate effect the spike in evictions will have on women and people of color,” she said. “That’s why I have encouraged courts to adopt eviction diversion as an essential tool for keeping people in their homes and landlords to access rental assistance during the pandemic.”
It’s problem that law students and the legal profession at large are particularly primed to take on, and NYLS’s equity-focused education provides a holistic view into the crisis—and its possible solutions.
The legal profession has risen to the challenge. “We could not be more inspired that so many dedicated law students and clinical legal programs have risen to the call to provide legal services to hard-pressed families at risk of, too often, devastating evictions. We are encouraged that the Emergency Rental Assistance has provided critical relief to well over 3 million renters and has helped not only prevent a tsunami of evictions but kept the rate of eviction filings at 60 percent of historic averages,” Sperling said. “We believe that the increased access to counsel that is being provided by such dedicated law students and clinical programs has prevented eviction, despair, and even homelessness for countless families and that these types of access to justice and court diversion reforms are also critical to the long-term reforms needed to build back to a better and more humane national eviction policy.”
Adeyemo shared a message of progress in the fight against the housing crisis—welcome news for those in and out of the legal profession who are working toward solutions. “Today, just over one year into the Biden Administration, state and local ERA programs have obligated well over $25 billion in rental assistance and made more than 3 million payments to households,” he said. “Eviction Lab data shows that in the four full months since the end of the eviction moratorium in August, eviction filings have remained below 60 percent of historical levels. The data shows that this program is working, keeping hundreds of thousands of families safely housed.”
Read the fact sheet released by the White House.