Executive Director's Report

Efforts That Hit Home


The American Bar Association has a vital resource to help ad­dress the national challenge of providing sufficient affordable housing in safe communities for all our citizens. It is the ABA Forum on Afford­able Housing and Community Development Law.

The forum, which began in 1991 as a committee of the nation’s leading lawyers in the practice area, continues to grow as an entity of 1,950 mem­bers who practice in the many disciplines that affect fair housing and community progress. Chaired this year by Paul K. Casey of Baltimore, the forum includes members with expertise in real property, tax, public finance, business, nonprofit, public housing, state and local government, and federal housing programs who come together in a common commitment to affordable housing and community development law.

COVERING ALL THE BASES

The ongoing challenge of providing affordable housing and effective community revitalization requires constant innovations. The forum provides its members with cutting-edge CLE and up-to-the-minute information on proposed new programs, such as a national housing trust fund and capital advance borrowing for public housing authorities, as well as a myriad of other advances at the federal, state and local government levels.

The forum’s annual national CLE conference in Wash­ington, D.C., which has nearly doubled in attendance since it began in ’92, provides members with programs ranging from the basics to advanced training. The forum also sponsors conferences in all regions of the country, coordinating educational and training programs for lawyers practicing in the area. It continues to work with and promote activities of state and local bar associations and other legal groups that educate the legal community on afford­able housing and community development matters. The forum’s 13th annual conference will take place in Washington in May.

Online discussion groups facilitate dialogue between members, especially through the use of the Home Forum e-mail list. The forum’s quarterly Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law presents scholarly articles on innovative new programs and issues relating to banking, tax law, federal policy and com­munity-based housing development, as well as practitioner commentaries on such topics as fair housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Internal Revenue Service and taxes, and news about forum activities.

Practice committees reflect the many areas of law important to forum members: bond financing, community economic development, fair housing, federal assistance programs, financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, public housing, senior housing and assisted living, state and local law, tax credits/equity financings and legal education. The committees engage members in commenting on legislation and regulations, recommending panel presentations at annual meetings, writing Journal articles, summarizing devel­opments in the practice areas, proposing and developing special projects, and recommending practice stan­dards and new government policies and initiatives.

This coalescing of wide-ranging areas of the law into one practice field means the forum works directly with many ABA entities in co-sponsoring its programs and ensuring its members have the greatest expertise available to them in any given area. It works with the sections of Business Law; Real Property, Probate and Trust; State and Local Government Law and others to provide an outstanding range of services and professional educational opportunities.

In its focus on increasing membership, the forum reaches out in particular to two groups. Because of the very important connections with government lawyers in the fair housing arena, the forum is committed to outreach to these attorneys. It offers special legal education programs for HUD attorneys and facilitates their participation in forum conferences.

To ensure its continued vitality, the forum also emphasizes outreach to law students. It has many attractive programs in place, including free membership and an annual student writing competition. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award, as well as travel to the annual conference and publication of the article in the forum’s Journal. The forum also presents career panels to students at four or five law schools each year. The forum maintains an excellent liaison relationship with the ABA Law Student Division that guarantees a constant flow of information between the two groups.

For more information on the forum’s many programs and opportunities, contact its outstanding staff director, Teresa Ucok, at 312-988-5658 or via e-mail at tucok@staff.abanet.org.

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