School of Law News

Fair Housing Grant Expands Partnership with Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Western New England University School of Law announced recently that it is expanding its partnership with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) through a program to train law students in the substantive and procedural issues related to fair housing practices under federal and state law.  This collaborative program will allow the University’s School of Law to expand its offerings of specialized classes, externships, and practice-based legal opportunities to train the next generation of fair housing lawyers in western Massachusetts. A generous grant of $30,500 was made by the MCAD to assist in creating the new curriculum and managing the externship opportunities. The School of Law’s partnership with the MCAD was made possible by a Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) Partnership Project grant awarded to the MCAD by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

HarriaFreeman3The law students participating in this program will assist in the representation of fair housing complainants, many of whom are tenants with limited English proficiency. The program will be implemented in partnership with attorneys and staff from the MCAD and the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center (MFHC), the oldest fair housing advocacy organization in Massachusetts. “This grant from HUD will enhance our Law School's ability to positively impact fair housing issues in cities and towns throughout western Massachusetts by expanding the experiential and classroom training for law students interested in civil rights and fair housing issues,” remarked Harris Freeman, Professor of Legal Research & Writing at Western New England University School of Law.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to work more closely with our partners at Western New England University School of Law,” said Commissioner Jamie R. Williamson, Chair of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, “Residential segregation remains a pressing problem in Western Massachusetts. Law students will investigate and litigate cases of housing discrimination, and will have the opportunity to work closely with indigent pro se complainants.” 

In light of the deeply rooted, segregated housing patterns in Springfield, Holyoke, and Pittsfield, and given the frequency of housing discrimination throughout western Massachusetts, this educational partnership is an important opportunity for Western New England University to serve the legal needs of western Massachusetts residents. “The grant will expand our students' ability to learn by participating in all facets of advocacy and adjudication of fair housing claims in the housing courts, the MCAD and with the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center.  We are looking forward to deepening our partnerships with all three institutions and organizations,” added Freeman. 

The award and collaboration comes following the 2014 Northeast Regional Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference, which was held in Springfield in April.  The conference, attended by over 512 persons was co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, HAPHousing, Western New England University, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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