Community Development

Public Counsel’s Community Development Project (CDP) works to develop the capacity of underserved and low-income communities by advancing affordable housing production and preservation; strengthening the healthcare safety net; and building foundations for financial independence.

CDP serves this mission by: (1) providing transactional legal services and capacity building for nonprofit organizations and microbusinesses, and (2) affordable housing advocacy, education and enforcement by our Housing Opportunities, Preservation and Enforcement (“HOPE”) Unit described below.

Transactional Legal Services and Capacity Building

Advancing Affordable Housing Production and Preservation

The severe shortage of affordable housing in Los Angeles is a significant hardship for low-income and disadvantaged households, preventing them from meeting their basic needs and increasing the risk of homelessness. CDP supports nonprofits engaged in creating and preserving affordable housing, social service providers partnering to create supportive housing, affordable housing and tenants’ rights advocates. We also coordinate our direct services and capacity building in this area with our HOPE Unit’s housing advocacy work described below.

Strengthening the Healthcare Safety Net

Community-based, not for profit primary care clinics in Los Angeles County are the backbone of a critical safety net of care for more than two million uninsured children and adults who reside in primarily low-income, minority and/or immigrant neighborhoods. CDP ’s clients include nonprofit healthcare providers serving low-income and uninsured individuals and families, such as federally qualified health centers, community clinics, and mental health service providers.

Building foundations for financial independence

Underlying all of CDP’s work is the understanding that financial independence is crucial to create truly equal access to justice. CDP’s clients include nonprofits that help individuals and families develop financial self-sufficiency, through financial literacy training, individual development accounts, job training and placement, or entrepreneurial training and development. Our clients also include low-income entrepreneurs who are starting small businesses and need legal services for those small businesses.

Transactional Legal Services

CDP provides a wide range of transactional legal services to qualifying nonprofit organizations and microbusinesses. We assist start-up nonprofits that share our mission by helping to incorporate, obtain tax exemption, and establish workable corporate structures and policies. We support the growth and development of established nonprofits and microbusinesses, by providing on-going assistance on an extensive range of matters including board and organizational liability, employment laws, intellectual property, laws affecting fundraising, and corporate and tax compliance issues. CDP supports the advocacy efforts of organizations and coalitions who share our mission by providing legal advice and training on the laws and regulations that govern lobbying and election activity by nonprofits. We also provide technical assistance in drafting and reviewing contracts, including leases, loan and other financing documents, and partnership agreements. CDP also supports the development of affordable and supportive housing by assisting with pre-development issues including land use and entitlements, and advising on the special issues nonprofits face when entering into partnerships.

Education and Capacity Building

In order to help organizations remain sustainable and productive forces in the communities they serve, CDP offers seminars on legal and compliance issues, and publishes legal updates on changes in nonprofit law. CDP also provides in-depth training for board members on issues such as corporate governance and conflicts of interest, fiduciary responsibilities, self-evaluation and strategic planning, personnel policy and procedures and financial responsibilities.

 

Housing Opportunities, Preservation and Enforcement Unit (“HOPE”)

CDP supplements its transactional assistance to affordable housing clients described above with efforts to advocate and educate for the creation and preservation of affordable housing using state and local laws. Through participation in coalitions and provision of direct legal advice to nonprofit clients in the areas of land use and affordable housing, the HOPE Unit advocates for local land use policies that preserve affordable housing units, and advises on establishment of local policies for mixed-income housing, housing element law, implementing the state density bonus law and second unit laws. Finally, the HOPE Unit advocates to ensure compliance with the above laws, engaging in impact litigation as necessary.

Housing Element

In addition to the above, one full time Equal Justice Works Fellow advocates for the development and preservation of affordable housing in the greater Los Angeles area by using State Housing Element law. This project is focused specifically on 5-10 jurisdictions in the area and includes collaborating with jurisdictions in development of their housing element update drafts, monitoring development and compliance with State law, and advocating for meaningful enforcement of this law. For more information and resources in connection with Public Counsel's Southern California Housing Element Advocacy Project click here.