Community Economic Development Project

Florida Community Development Legal (FCDL) is the result of several wheels turning in the same direction, that are now spinning together.  In July 2017, the Florida Bar Foundation (FBF) initiated a strategic reset to prioritize grant funding for high impact collaborative efforts. At the same time, both Shahrzad Emami (Director of the Affordable Housing Project at Legal Services of Greater Miami) and Kimberly Sanchez (CEO of CLSMF) were considering ways to leverage their respective organization’s efforts to assist with community development. 

With the FBF strategic reset in the background, Emami attended the Florida Housing Coalition annual conference and worked on a group panel involving other legal aid attorneys
engaged in affordable housing and community economic development. Sanchez sought out Emami to discuss ways to improve utilization of CLSMF’s new community economic development team. Sanchez has been strategizing to use CLSMF as a holistic improvement vessel for its client communities instead of merely a “band aid” for low income clients in need of legal services.

One conversation led to another and the eventual consensus became what is now FCDL: a collaborative of legal aid organizations with broad geographic reach that have partnered to provide services for affordable housing and small business development that will leverage and build upon the services already provided. FBF awarded a grant to Legal Services of
Greater Miami to fund FCDL, with CLSMF and Legal Aid Service of Broward County as project partners.

FCDL combines affordable housing and community development legal advocacy to create a regional collaboration of legal aid providers. FCDL’s attorneys focus on the representation of eligible non-profit and small business organizations operating in counties from Ocala to Key West.

Two main areas of focus include representation of (i) non-profit developers in the affordable housing industry and (ii) small immigrant and minority owned businesses and non-profit organizations and community groups engaged in economic development activities.

The FCDL attorneys have collective unique expertise in affordable, sustainable housing and its related components — community and economic development, and preservation of home ownership. After two months of working together, FCDL is staffed with eight attorneys, who meet every week via video conference to discuss new cases and project goals.

If you are a small business operating and serving a low-income community in Florida or a non-profit organization engaged in an economic development activity, FDCL services may be available to you. Please visit: flcommunitydevelopment.org and click on the “apply for services” button on the home page to inquire further.