Community Development Clinic Helps Launch Community Land Trust in Hough Neighborhood

Hough neighborhood Getty images

Recently, the Community Development Clinic at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law has aimed to devote more of its legal services to nonprofits and social enterprises in neighborhoods close to the university’s campus. One example is the Clinic’s work with the Hough Community Land Trust (HCLT), a resident-led organization that works to ensure long-term real estate affordability while supporting racially and economically inclusive ownership and access in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood. To protect against the destructive effects of gentrification, the land trust buys and leases land to developers after negotiating community benefit agreements.

HCLT Board Member, Hough resident and CWRU alum Carolyn Watts Allen (LAW ‘72) contacted the Clinic for assistance in incorporating HCLT as a nonprofit corporation, formalizing its Board, and obtaining 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.  Allen, the former safety director of the City of Cleveland, has helped lead the effort to redevelop the predominantly minority Hough neighborhood which borders University Circle. 

Last year, Clinic interns Divyang “Sunny” Patel (LAW ‘21) and Audrey Quinn (LAW ’21) skillfully navigated HCLT through each of these steps. They then passed the baton to this year’s Clinic team of Michael Bishop (LAW ’22), Jacob Gialamas (LAW ’22) and Sierra Lipscomb (LAW ’22), who advised HCLT’s Board on best practices, conflict of interest policies, and nonprofit legal compliance obligations.

“A representation like this is a great way for our Clinic interns to learn about the value that capable transactional legal counsel can add,” said Professor Matthew Rossman, who directs the Community Development Clinic. “For example, HCLT’s status as a land trust meant added research and advocacy by our interns before the Ohio Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Identifying and addressing this issue before the client tried to incorporate saved valuable time and effort. At the same time, our interns learned about unique strategies for preserving housing affordability—a growing challenge in greater University Circle.”

“As an alumni of CWRU Law, I was proud that our community could benefit from the expertise of the Law Clinic in helping establish the Hough Community Land Trust,” said Allen. “We thank the students for their hard work and look forward to an ongoing relationship with the Clinic.”

The Community Development Clinic is one of nine clinics under the umbrella of the School of Law’s Milton and Charlotte Kramer Law Clinic. Every law student undertakes a 3L capstone in one of the clinics or a semester-long externship. Based on the work of the Community Development Clinic and the other clinics, preLaw magazine (Spring 2022) ranked Case Western Reserve University School of Law 5th best law school in the nation in practical training.