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Nejla Calvo

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Nejla Calvo

Nejla Calvo

Name of Host Organization: Legal Services of Greater Miami
City, State: Miami, Florida
Issue area: Housing - Affordable Housing/Microfinance
Sponsors: Equal Justice Works Innovate Fund

The Project

Nejla will provide legal advocacy, outreach and education to mobile home park residents. She will assist in the formation of homeowners associations to protect residents’ rights and to improve park conditions throughout Miami-Dade County.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
Mobile home parks are a key source of affordable unsubsidized housing in Miami, where there are about 61 parks and an estimated 50,000 people living in mobile homes. Generally, mobile home park residents own their trailers and rent the land from the park owner. The dynamic of owning a home, but not the land, gives rise to an unequal power dynamic. Residents cannot afford to move elsewhere, they do not want to leave their communities, and their fragile homes could be destroyed by a move. Park owners often exploit their position of power by improperly increasing lot rent, failing to provide adequate park maintenance, engaging in selective code enforcement, and initiating retaliatory evictions. Mobile home park residents have little legal recourse as individuals, but Fla. Stat. Ch. 723 allows residents to form homeowners associations and engage in collective representation to protect residents’ rights. This project will utilize existing legal protections by empowering residents to form homeowners associations and fight for their rights to affordable, safe, sanitary, and habitable housing.
The Right Person For This Project
Nejla is the right person for the project because:
• She has advocated for mobile home park residents for two years as a legal intern with Florida Legal Services, Inc. and Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.
• During college, she worked on international human rights initiatives in Bolivia, Argentina, and Israel
• During law school, she advocated for civil rights on local and national levels in the areas of prisoners’ rights, workers’ rights, housing discrimination and disability discrimination
• Nejla comes from a diverse background, speaks Spanish, and has the cultural competency to work within Miami mobile home park communities
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Nejla will:
• Survey residents in ten mobile home parks to identify legal issues concerning their tenancy
• Represent ten residents in eviction defense cases
• Conduct five know-your-rights trainings tailored to the specific needs of individual mobile home parks
• Empower residents to form homeowners associations in two mobile home parks and engage in collective advocacy to improve park conditions