‘A new generation of housing advocates have been born out of this time.’ Here’s one.
In August of 2021, George Washington University law student Dylan Basescu, along with 50 or so other protesters, staged a sit-in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol protesting the end of the CDC’s moratorium on evictions. Four months later, he was evicted right in the midst of his law school finals.
In a time when Dylan viewed “housing law” as something abstract to study for his exams, he did not realize how crucial that knowledge would be for understanding his rights as a young renter.
“I am in law school to fight the broad monopoly of injustices, eviction is included,” Dylan told Voices for Human Needs. “Evictions can tear people and families apart. We can do better than that.”
Dylan is among the new generation of housing advocates inspired by the growing inequality and housing crisis in this country.
“Younger students have a direct crisis of dealing with unaffordable housing,” Dylan explains. “Our generation is more aware. We are a generation of students coming from families who rent. We will be renting for the unforeseeable future. It changes our perspective. As young lawyers, we will be dealing with issues that we will be personally familiar with. It reminds us how precarious these situations are.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, for the first quarter of 2022, 31 percent of all housing units were renter-occupied and homeownership has continued to decline. Homeownership rates for millennials stand at 48.6 percent, more than 20 percentage points lower than the rate for Gen X and almost 30 percentage points lower than baby boomers. With each passing year – and accelerated by the pandemic – an increasing share of millennial renters say they will never own a home.
For Dylan’s generation, the American dream has become an unaffordable fairytale if you are not lucky enough to be privileged with generational wealth. They are aware of that and they are fighting back.
“A new generation of housing advocates have been born out of this time,” Erika Poethig, White House adviser on Urban Planning and Policy, said at an eviction prevention event at the end of January.
Indeed, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the CDC’s moratorium on evictions in August 2021, the White House, joined by Attorney General Merrick Garland, issued a clarion call for law schools and law students to come together in a national collaboration to help people in danger of eviction. Some 99 law schools in 35 states and Puerto Rico responded. Thousands of law students like Dylan contributed more than 81,000 pro bono hours to help more than 10,000 households, according to the White House.
“Even after the pandemic is over, the underlying housing crisis will endure,” Georgetown University Law Dean Bill Treaner told ABC News. “This has helped make us all conscious of the importance of finding ways in which law students can help people facing housing crises.”
With rising student debt and a crippling cost of living, Dylan’s generation is demanding a future that America cannot currently give them. They were not set up for success and they want to correct the injustices.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report, people working minimum wage jobs full-time cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country. In 93 percent of U.S. counties, the same workers can’t afford a modest one-bedroom.
Dylan’s generation is learning through living this reality. Not everything can be taught in a classroom.
“We are forced to know how to have empathy for these highly emotional situations,” Dylan said.
Law school will provide the tools for Dylan’s empathy to be empowered. People like Dylan around the country will approach housing law with compassion, recognizing that these are people’s lives, families, and livelihoods. The hope for the housing crisis is in the people who have been hurt the most by it, and especially the young people around this country who have faced significant housing trauma.