Lauren Greenwald, NHLA Housing Justice Project Director

Lauren Greenwald, NHLA Housing Justice Project Director, talks with a tenant at an eviction clinic in Manchester shortly after the public health emergency protections for tenants ended

Share with us the career path that led you to NHLA:

After I graduated from Bowdoin College, I worked for the Close Up Foundation in Washington, DC – a civic education organization that brings high school students to Washington, DC for one week to study the government. It was amazing and got me interested in the law. While I was studying at Vermont Law School, I interned for a law firm that had the county “public defender” contract. I strongly believe the quality of someone’s legal representation should not be dependent on one’s wealth. I then clerked for a federal magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court in Boston, then joined the New Hampshire Public Defender. I was in court almost every day for 15 years, covering cases from misdemeanor driving offenses to violent felonies.

I had one notable leave of absence, during which my husband Joe Welsh and I moved to The Hague, Netherlands to work for 5 months with the U.N. tribunal tasked with investigating and prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the war in former Yugoslavia.  Not long after we returned, in 2018, the perfect job opened for me, and I have been at NHLA since then.

What are some of your highest priorities and goals for the Housing Justice Project?

Our primary goals for the Housing Justice project currently consist of helping tenants to preserve their subsidized housing, to help owners of manufactured homes preserve their housing, to assist property owners in accessing help through the Homeowner’s Assistance Fund, to investigate instances of housing discrimination and advocate for clients using state and federal fair housing laws, and to assist tenants facing eviction in the Nashua and Manchester District Courts via our eviction clinic work.

Do you see some types of cases more often than others? What does your work with the Housing Justice Project look like day to day? 

Much of our work with the Housing Justice Project involves assisting with defense against evictions. Although I am the Project Director of the HJP, my workday looks like that of any staff attorney, the majority of my time is spent working on my clients’ cases. The work is highly variable, but in any given case I could be writing motions, preparing for a trial, litigating an issue in court, going to an administrative hearing with a client, investigating factual issues in a case, doing legal research, negotiating a settlement with opposing counsel, and more.

Given our current housing crisis, what kinds of solutions or improvements would you like to see in New Hampshire? What do victories look like amidst the current crisis? ‘

In this housing crisis, any time we can help a family avoid an eviction, we consider it an enormous victory. New Hampshire’s housing vacancy rate is so low that an eviction for any of our clients is likely to result in homelessness. Not to mention, if it is an eviction from subsidized housing, the client will likely be unable to access subsidized housing again for at least several years. Any time we help keep people in their homes, we consider it a huge victory.

New Hampshire is in desperate need of affordable housing. Any initiative that supports affordable housing is critical. There are legislative efforts that can be made to protect tenants, such as longer notice periods for tenants facing eviction for renovation or sale of the rental unit and codifying protections for New Hampshire residents from discrimination when trying to rent using a Housing Choice Voucher.

How can supporters uplift you and this cause?

The best way to support the Housing Justice Project’s work is to register your opinion, and even testify, when the State Legislature is considering legislation that would impact our most vulnerable residents. For example, HB 1115 – now before the Senate Commerce Committee – would have a profound and devastating impact on renters as it would allow landlords to evict good tenants at the end of their lease without any other reason.

Another effective way to support this work is to donate to the Campaign for Legal Services so that we can hire additional staff to expand the reach of our work and turn away fewer cases. It would be wonderful to increase our case acceptance rate to help as many Granite Staters as is possible.