Clinic Director Heather Way, clinic client, and clinic student.

Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic

Students meeting with a client at Rancho Vista.
Students meeting with a client at Rancho Vista.
Left to Right: Marina Garza, Arthur Rodrigues, Joyce Men and Matthew Badders.

Clinic students provide transactional business law representation to entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, and community groups.  Our clients are strengthening their communities through job creation, the production and preservation of affordable housing, asset building strategies for low-income individuals, and the provision of innovative and valuable goods and services for their communities.

The legal services we provide include: choice of entity counseling, formation of for-profit and nonprofit entities, assistance in obtaining and maintaining federal tax-exempt status, contract review and drafting, real estate work, trademark and copyright work, employment law counseling, and general counsel services for nonprofit boards of directors.  The Clinic also offers a policy tract in which students work with community groups to develop local and statewide policy solutions to community development issues. The Clinic is a partnership between Texas Law and Texas Community Building With Attorney Resources (Texas C-BAR), a project of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.

Clinic clients, students and clinic faculty Eliza Platts-Mills

Cases and Projects

Small Dollar Lending Program

The Clinic has worked with Texas Community Capital for several years, assisting with the organization’s statewide expansion of the Community Loan Center’s Affordable Small Dollar Loans Program. The Small Dollar Loans Program is an innovative, employer-based, lending program that provides individuals with low-interest loans of up to $1,000, repayable over a one-year term, as an alternative to predatory payday loans. Local, nonprofit lenders from across Texas administer the Program, marketing the Program as a voluntary benefit to employers in their geographic area. The Clinic has assisted the local lenders with obtaining their regulated lender licenses from the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner; prepared the contracts that run between the local lenders and Texas Community Capital; and provides ongoing legal counsel to Texas Community Capital with regard to the implementation and operation of the Program. The CLC Program was featured in a blog by the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations in April 2015.

Affordable Housing Work

The Clinic has worked with the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation (GNDC) for many years, preparing transactional real estate documents, counseling the Board of Directors, and making presentations to third parties, including local appraisal district officials. GNDC is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization in Austin that has been developing and preserving affordable rental and homeownership housing in East Austin for over thirty years. In the past few years, with help from the Clinic, GNDC has developed the first Community Land Trust program in Texas, in which homes are sold to homeowners, while the land underneath the home is leased to the homeowner via a 99-year ground lease. The ground lease prepared by the Clinic contains specific resale restrictions that ensure the home will remain affordable for future owners and also that each homeowner will gain some equity in the home over time. This innovative affordable housing tool enables GNDC to create and maintain affordable homeownership in East Austin, benefiting both current and future low-income homeowners. GNDC’s Community Land Trust work was featured in The Atlantic in July 2015.

Report: Addressing Dangerous Rental Properties in Austin (Spring and Summer 2015)

The Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic has published the report, “An Analysis of Austin’s Repeat Offender Program and Efforts to Address Dangerous Rental Properties.” The report finds major flaws with the City of Austin’s policies for addressing hazardous building conditions at older rental properties. The report, prepared by students and faculty, expands on the Clinic’s prior work in this area and outlines a number of policy recommendations to improve Austin’s programs for addressing dangerous properties.  The report follows a series of tragedies involving hazardous conditions at local rental properties, which have led to the displacement of dozens of low-income tenants, as well as deaths.

For Randy Teich, the president the North Austin Civic Association, which commissioned the report as a client of the Clinic, the report’s policy recommendations need to be adopted in order to protect tenant lives and improve neighborhood safety. “Many rental properties in Austin continue to lack any kind of maintenance program where any day now another tenant or guest could be killed because of hazardous building conditions,” said Teich.

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