RPPTL Section offers pro bono housing assistance

first_imgRPPTL Section offers pro bono housing assistance RPPTL Section offers pro bono housing assistance Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Construction on a low-income housing development in rural Gadsden County is complete, but there’s a major glitch in getting hooked up to the city sewer system. What to do?Get a lawyer. Quick. In a new partnership between The Florida Bar Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section and the Florida Housing Coalition, Tallahassee lawyer Bruce Wiener has been drafted to deliver free legal services to work out that snafu so people can live in that much needed low-income housing.“It’s the first case, and Bruce was willing to volunteer,” said Drew O’Malley, chair of the RPPTL Pro Bono Committee and president-elect of The Florida Bar Foundation.He’s hoping to find a lot more lawyers like Wiener who know something about real estate transactions and development procedures and are willing to join in the statewide pro bono effort.The idea, O’Malley said, evolved from a successful program of the Bay Area Legal Services, called Community Counsel, run by Marilyn Kershner.“I wish I could claim credit for it,” said O’Malley, who knows a good thing when he sees it and is working to emulate the program statewide.“We want to match transactional attorneys, real estate and corporate, with qualifying nonprofit organizations that build or renovate affordable low-income housing,” O’Malley said.“The Florida Housing Coalition, an umbrella group of all nonprofit low-income housing providers in Florida, would refer members who don’t have sufficient funds to pay substantial legal fees,” O’Malley said.“And the RPPTL section will solicit and maintain a statewide panel of volunteer attorneys who are prepared to advise the housing coalition referrals on such issues as purchases, sales, financing, construction, zoning, permitting — anything that relates to housing.”Don’t be scared off by the thought of dealing with government funding issues, O’Malley advises. The Florida Housing Coalition has technical assistance advisors to help with that.In most pro bono work, there’s not much call for lawyers who can negotiate and close transactions and loans, O’Malley said. This project will give real estate lawyers an opportunity to participate in important pro bono work.“The law has been very good to me on a professional and personal basis, and it’s my way of giving something back to the profession, and, in particular, to people who can’t afford to retain most of us,” O’Malley said.“There is just a huge need for affordable housing, particularly in Florida. This is an opportunity for people to pay something back and meet a need that is currently going virtually unmet.”At the Florida Housing Coalition, Executive Director Rob Ippolito sees the need for free legal help for its 4,000 members.“A big challenge — whenever you do a housing development, whether it’s rental or single family — is the cash-strapped small, nonprofit developer typically doesn’t have capital to put together a project, for what we call the predevelopment costs,” Ippolito said. “Before you actually start moving the dirt, there is a lot of work: finding the property, title issues. Let’s say they find the perfect piece of property, but need a zoning change. Or issues like needing a holding pond and what that holding pond should look like.”At the root of it all, Ippolito said, is the very real need for affordable housing. Though it is not advisable for people to pay more than 30 percent of their income for either rent or a mortgage, Ippolito said, “a lot of people, particularly lower-income and moderate-income, pay upwards of 50 percent of their gross income.. . We’re hearing more and more about the housing crisis. The median incomes around the country are not increasing at the same rate of appreciation of homes and property. There is a mismatch right now.”As most incomes increase 2.5 to 3 percent per year, Ippolito said, property values are increasing at 8 percent in North Florida, and as high as 12 percent in South Florida.Statistics released September 18 by the National Low Income Housing Coalition revealed the following:• In Florida, an extremely low income household (earning $15,730 — 30 percent of the area median income of $52,434) can afford monthly rent of no more than $393, while the fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit is $727.• A minimum wage earner ($5.15 an hour) can afford monthly rent of no more than $164, while the fair market rent for a one-bedroom unit is $593.• In Florida, a worker earning the minimum wage must work 109 hours a week in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the area’s fair market rent.• The “Housing Wage” in Florida is $13.98. This is the amount a full-time (40 hours per week) worker must earn per hour in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the area’s fair market rent. This is 271 percent of the minimum wage. Between 2001 and 2002, the two bedroom housing wage increased by 4.71 percent.“If people are real low-income, they double up and live with two families, or live with cousins. That’s how people keep housing affordable,” Ippolito said.“I was hearing yesterday that in Delray Beach, the city is trying to assist developers with incentives to build homes in the $130,000 to $200,000 range. What I found interesting is what I would consider middle-income housing is now on the radar screen of local government, that housing even for middle-income people is not affordable.”The Florida Housing Coalition welcomes the partnership with the RPPTL pro bono lawyers, Ippolito said.“I’ve talked to a lot of my staff about it who work individually with these nonprofits around the state. We really feel that if the match is made correctly, they really can help these nonprofits get through this predevelopment process. It’s a challenge for a lot of them, and they don’t have the capital a lot of large developers have.”The small developers targeting the lowest income levels, especially, need to keep costs down, he said.“Let’s face it: Development these days is complicated. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We want to make sure development is done in the right way,” Ippolito said. “There’s a place for attorneys, if we can do it in a way to keep those costs down, to get through the predevelopment process. Ideally, what it gets to is the cost of the housing. The goal is you want the person living in that housing not to pay more than 30 percent of income on rent or housing, so they can pay for child care and the things we take for granted.”If you are an attorney interested in participating in this new RPPTL pro bono project, call Drew O’Malley at (813) 250-0577 or Chris Ryan at (813) 639-9594. October 1, 2002 Associate Editor Regular Newslast_img read more

Debating the Redefinition of Marriage

first_imgWe had the opportunity this morning on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme to debate the redefinition of marriage. You can watch the debate by clicking the image below.We have had lots of supportive feedback, including many comments about the facial gestures going on behind me which I was unaware of! But it’s important for our campaign to show respect and humility at all times. (I had the opportunity afterwards to congratulate Tamiti Coffey on his good work hosting NZ’s Got Talent.)Thank you for your messages of support. We do appreciate the words of encouragement in the midst of a difficult battle.If you would like to support our Campaign to Protect Marriage, please click HERElast_img