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Equal Justice Foundation Report - Jamie Dervin
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
This past summer I interned for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of General Counsel in Atlanta. For the last 45 years, HUD has been tasked with strengthening the nation’s communities, promoting affordable housing, dismantling barriers to homeownership, expanding homeownership opportunities for Americans, ending chronic homelessness, and enforcing civil rights, fair housing, and anti-discrimination laws. I was drawn to HUD because quality affordable housing is such a pervasive problem. HUD deals with housing issues that implicate social justice, economic development, and general quality of life concerns.
I worked in the Program Services Division for HUD’s Region IV, which is responsible for administering HUD’s well-known programs including single family housing (FHA Home Loans), multi-family property disposition, section 8 housing, community development block grants, adult living and nursing homes for low income residents, and several other programs. Other divisions within General Counsel assist with enforcement and litigation. HUD’s Region IV encompasses the entire Southeast and Puerto Rico. The Atlanta Regional Headquarters is unique as the agency’s largest field office, and it serves clients with very diverse interests.
I was fortunate to have participated in a wide variety of service areas within the division. The staff attorneys deserve credit for knowing how to utilize interns while providing mentorship opportunities. Within my first week, I was already put to work reviewing a 1,000 page merger agreement to ensure that the agreement did not violate federal regulations or put mortgage purchasers at risk. After that, I was asked to draft a series of ethics opinions on issues involving HUD grantees. I don’t know if my internship experience was typical, but I can say that my supervisors let me be as involved as I wanted to be on just about any issue that came through the office.
I picked up many practical skills related to transactional work while getting to work in the public interest. I prepared closing documents on single family properties as well as multi-family projects. By carefully drafting terms of the agreement, we protect low-income residents, ensure landlord compliance with federal regulations, and protect tax-payers from losing money on their investment in the nation’s housing stock.
I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to work directly with clients on a variety of interesting projects. In addition to HUD’s role in securing mortgages for low-income housing projects, the agency administers certain Community Block Development Grants. These grants provide funding for communities in Region VI to fund creative housing initiatives. I was able to review two such applications from local governments and provide feedback as to the sufficiency of those applications.
Perhaps the largest project of the summer involved assisting with a multi-million dollar transfer of assets application for a nursing home facility. Working on this project took the entire summer and combined practical elements of document review and drafting, researching federal regulations, and advising program staff. In the end, we were able to limit taxpayer liability, retain quality care for low-income seniors here in Georgia, and we created quick reference checklists to streamline the approval process in the future to make this a viable alternative to bankruptcy for project managers.
The Equal Justice Foundation made this summer possible for me. Thanks to EJF’s financial support, I was able to spend my entire summer working in the public interest rather than looking for another job to cover living expenses. EJF allowed me to work more hours than the typical HUD intern works, and that enriched my experience and provided a greater benefit to the agency and the population it serves.